The state superintendent rejected the Baltimore County school board’s choice for a permanent superintendent on Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know the decision:
1. It’s about her consulting work.
State Superintendent Karen Salmon cited concerns over White’s ethical lapses (a failure to report consulting income on her financial disclosure forms) and an unfinished audit of district contracting practices. The audit is mainly related to contracts White’s predecessor, Dallas Dance, approved with companies that do business with the Education Research & Development Institute, the firm that paid the two as consultants.
2. The door is not completely closed.
Salmon said she would agree to appoint White to another year as interim superintendent and would be willing to reconsider her permanent appointment after the audit is complete.
3. The county board doesn’t have a lot of options.
By state law, new superintendents must start July 1, so there’s no time to find another permanent leader. The board chairman, Edward Gilliss, said he may ask Salmon to reconsider, but another year with White as interim seems the most likely outcome, even though a minority of the board remains opposed to her.
4. Salmon’s action is extraordinary.
State superintendents must officially sign off on such hires, but in recent memory, none have ever been blocked.
5. What White did was like what Dance did, but not.
Both failed to report outside income on forms they attested were accurate, under penalty of perjury. Legally, though, perjury requires intent. There was loads of evidence of it for Dance, including lies to district officials and efforts to keep one of his outside employers from telling the school board about his relationship. He, eventually, admitted to it. Dance pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury, and is serving a six-month sentence in Virginia. White maintains she made an honest mistake, and a county ethics panel concluded that the forms were confusing.
6. The political implications are thick.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, wasted no time in blaming Republican incumbent Larry Hogan: “Larry Hogan has a troubling pattern of playing politics at the expense of children’s education,” Kamenetz said in a statement. “He’s created turmoil over the school calendar and the school construction process. Now he directs his schools chief to take the unprecedented step to overturn the judgment of the local school board who knows Superintendent White best. He’s shameless!”
Hogan’s spokeswoman says he has nothing to do with it, but he’s clearly not heartbroken.
“It is startling that Mr. Kamenetz does not share the superintendent’s concerns, given what has gone in the Baltimore County school system on his watch,” Amelia Chasse said.