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Baltimore County

Under fire, Baltimore County schools superintendent defends his record

Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Darryl Williams is defending his record after coming under fire from members of the County Council who called for a search to replace him.

Williams sent a five-page letter to the council Saturday covering how he has handled issues including school safety, a bus driver shortage and staff morale.

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The letter was in response to a call by five of the council’s seven members for the school board to conduct a “comprehensive and wide-ranging” superintendent search before they consider renewing Williams’ contract, which ends next year. The council members wrote in a letter last week that there is “no accountability” for the school system’s performance and the situation has “reached a crisis point.”

The council’s complaints include what they called infrequent communication and continuing problems with late school buses.

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On Saturday, Williams said in a statement to the media that the council’s letter “unfortunately, contained numerous inaccuracies.”

“While I am not accustomed to this type of counterproductive political dialogue, I understand that we are in an election year, and facts often get lost in rhetoric,” Williams said.

School board members are scheduled to meet in a closed-door session Monday. A press release announcing the “special closed session” contained no information about an agenda. Board Chairwoman Julie Henn did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.

In his letter, Williams wrote that while schools are now open amid the pandemic, public health and education experts have noted that “expectations for a rapid return to normal are unrealistic and belie the lived experiences of families.

“This is not an excuse, but critical context for the current state of affairs,” wrote Williams, who was hired in 2019.

Last week, by a vote of 5-2, the council blocked a routine funding transfer within the schools’ budget after railing against school officials about the buses.

The next day, five members of the council sent the letter calling for a search for a new superintendent.

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“We are continually inundated by parent concerns, not only about buses,” but about discipline issues and academics, Councilman Tom Quirk said in an interview this weekend.

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Quirk, an Oella Democrat, is not seeking reelection and said, “My concern is only about our kids and our public schools.”

Council Chairman Julian Jones of Woodstock and Councilman Izzy Patoka of Pikesville, both Democrats, were the only members who did not sign the letter calling for a search to replace the superintendent. They also voted against blocking the funding transfer.

Jones said that the bus driver shortage is a regional and national issue.

“To somehow blame everything on Dr. Williams just seemed blatantly unfair to me,” Jones said Saturday. “Clearly, there are things that he could have done better, as anyone can do better.”

Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said Williams had individual meetings with some council members in recent days.

In a statement last week in response to calls for a superintendent search, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, said the hiring and oversight of the superintendent “is the most important responsibility of the Board of Education.” He said the council “has raised legitimate concerns about school system operations that need to be addressed.”


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