Baltimore council president criticizes school board 'secrecy' in selecting new CEO

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Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young on Wednesday criticized the school board for its secrecy in naming a new school system CEO.

Baltimore schools CEO Gregory Thornton will step down Friday, ending his two-year tenure in the city. The school board on Tuesday announced former schools administrator Sonja Santelises will take over on July 1. A national search that led to Santelises began in December.


"I was really shocked. I felt they shouldn't have did it in secrecy," Young said.

The board did not announce publicly that a search was underway. Past superintendent searches in the city have been announced publicly but were kept confidential. The board that hired Thornton held public forums during the search process.


"They should have let the leaders of the city know, because No. 1, we get the blame for the schools," Young said. He said he learned of Thornton's departure Tuesday night from his spokesman, who learned from a news reporter.

He also expressed concern that the leadership turnover would hurt students, and the entire school system.

"The school system is the reason why a lot of young families leave the city of Baltimore. This musical chairs of CEOs coming and going with our schools system is really hurting our city," Young said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday said she respected the decision of the school board, and said many major cities face similar turnover in leadership positions.

"If you look around the country at major cities, you'll see police chiefs and school CEOs have very short tenures. Baltimore is no exception," Rawlings-Blake said.

But the mayor said the school board must make decisions in the best interest of students.

"I remain focused on making sure I do my part to help them get the best people they possibly can in the position so our young people can exceed. My focus is always on, not on the drama of changing leadership, but what does this mean for our young people," Rawlings-Blake said.

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Rawlings-Blake said she couldn't remember exactly when she learned of his resignation, but said it was before the announcement. She said she is in regular contact with members of the school board. She wouldn't say if she knew Santelises would be chosen for the position.


When asked about the transparency of the selection process, she said trusted the school board's ability to make decisions.

"I think the school board takes their role very seriously in making sure they are doing the best for young people, and I'm sure if there are parents who have concerns, they will make their voices heard," the mayor said.

Rawlings-Blake said Santelises has an excellent reputation, which she said she hopes school stakeholders will focus on rather than the process in which she was selected.

"I don't know of any place where how the person was chosen has any impact on the outcomes for our young people in the classroom, and that's my focus," Rawlings-Blake said.