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Baltimore County school board will ask state superintendent to reconsider White as schools chief

The Baltimore County school board voted Tuesday night to resubmit Verletta White as its choice to be the next superintendent, along with documents the board majority hopes will change the outcome.

Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon took the unusual step last week of blocking the appointment of White, saying she was uncomfortable with White's ethics violations. Salmon also wanted an audit of the school system's contracts to be completed before White, who is the county's interim schools chief, was named to the job for four years.

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The board voted 8-4 Tuesday to ask Salmon to reconsider.

Some school members said they thought it was unlikely Salmon would change her mind, given that the audit is not complete.

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In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Verletta White said that superintendent Karen Salmon had told her the ethics review panel’s findings are cause for “concern.”

Board member Kathleen Causey said the vote only puts off for another two weeks a final decision on who will be the next interim superintendent.

"This is a waste of time and it is unfortunate," Causey said. If Salmon doesn't change her position, the board will have to appoint an interim for a year.

White, who has spent nearly her entire career in the system, was the chief academic officer for more than five years before she took over as interim superintendent last July. The board — in an eight to four vote — decided on April 17 to make White the next superintendent, ending the interim status and giving her a four-year contract. Most observers assumed the decision was over because the state superintendent has historically allowed local boards to make the decision.

A vocal, minority bloc of the county school board voted against White's appointment and then lobbied Salmon. Several of the members — Ann Miller, Causey and Julie Henn — sent Salmon letters and encouraged members of the public to write to her.

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In debate Tuesday night, board members took nasty swipes at each other. Members on both sides of the debate over White blamed the other for the fact that the search for a new leader was delayed until late in the spring. Some members said they would try to block White from being eligible for applying for being named interim for the next year.

Almost immediately after the Baltimore County School Board voted 8-4 to hire Verletta White as superintendent, dissenting members ignited a grassroots lobbying effort to ask the state schools superintendent to block the appointment.

Appearing on the WYPR's "Midday" show at noon, White said she hoped that if she is given the interim position for another year, the board would have a conversation about how to get along after the division of the past several months.

"I think that we would have to have a collaborative conversation about how to move forward and establish trust," she said on the radio.

The latest episode caps weeks of turmoil in the county school system's leadership following the indictment, conviction and sentencing of former Superintendent Dallas Dance on four counts of perjury for failing to report nearly $147,000 in income from consultants. Dance is serving a six month sentence in prison that he began April 27.

White also failed to disclose about $12,000 she earned for consulting work. But while Dance created false documents and lied to the ethics board about his consulting work, White told the ethics board she would amend her financial disclosure reports and pledged to do no more consulting work while serving as superintendent.

County legislators and council members have called for an expansive audit of the school system contracts under Dance's administration, particularly those with technology companies. Dance took steps to give nearly every student and teacher in the school system a laptop, and moved away from textbooks and toward digital curriculum. Under those initiatives, a number of technology companies got multimillion-dollar contracts with the school system.

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