Who is Karen Salmon? The state official behind the Verletta White decision

State Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon made news Wednesday after she declined to approve Verletta White as Baltimore County’s permanent school superintendent, citing White’s recent ethic violations.

Salmon’s back story? She was named the state’s top public education official in May 2016, after spending more than three decades as an educator on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

She launched her career as a special education teacher in Caroline County Public Schools, before moving over to serve in Talbot County. She was named Talbot’s superintendent in 2003, and awarded the state’s Superintendent of the Year award in 2012.

While leading that system, she was a strong advocate for more technology usage. Talbot County was one of the first districts in Maryland to roll-out widespread use of laptops that students could take home.

But she came under fire in 2013, after the state board reversed a decision by her and the Talbot County school board to suspend two Easton High School lacrosse players. The boys were getting ready to board a bus to a game when two small penknives and a lighter were found in their gear. After police were called, one of the boys was arrested, handcuffed and charged at the police station.

In a rare move, the state board reversed the county’s decision. They ordered Talbot officials to clear the boys’ records. The state criticized local officials for using bad judgment in disciplining the players.

As state superintendent, Salmon has said she wanted to prioritize providing equitable opportunities for all students, including students of color.

The Baltimore Sun named her one of last year’s “25 Women to Watch,” noting her role in rewriting the state’s school accountability system and establishing a research division aimed at helping schools pick curriculum and classroom practices that are proven to yield results.

Salmon lives with her husband in Bozman, meaning she has an 81 mile one-way commute to her job in Baltimore.

When she assumed her current leadership role, former Baltimore County superintendent Dallas Dance welcomed her. “I wish her much success in her new role,” he told The Sun in 2016.

Dance was recently sentenced to six-months in jail after pleading guilty to four perjury charges. He was charged with hiding payments for consulting work he received for years, including from a firm that represents school system contractors.

The same firm also had been paying White as a consultant, resulting in the ethics violation that led Salmon to not approve her as the next permanent superintendent for Baltimore County.

trichman@baltsun.com

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