Stakeholders say next Baltimore County schools superintendent needs to face reputation, budget issues

The next Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent will need to focus on balancing the school system’s budget and repairing its public image, according to the parents, administrators and school employees who turned out for a community forum Thursday in Arbutus.

Jennifer Lynch, principal of Hillcrest Elementary School in Catonsville and parent to three children in the system, said the actions of Dallas Dance, Baltimore County’s former superintendent who was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to four counts of perjury, “laid a foundation of mistrust in the system.”

Seven people showed up to the Arbutus Recreation Center for a 7 a.m. community forum concerning the ongoing search for Baltimore County’s next superintendent. There are four forums scheduled for Thursday evening and one scheduled for Friday morning.

“Everybody is sort of in attack mode,” Lynch said. She referenced online forums like Facebook where concerned parents and school officials discuss problems and said there was “a lot of ugliness” in how the county discusses its school system right now.

She said the next superintendent will have to work with the Board of Education, school staff and the community to assuage concerns and lower the temperature of the discourse surrounding BCPS.

Erica Mah, a teacher and parent to students in the system, said the next superintendent will have to work on balancing the budget and protecting teacher salaries while looking toward school construction.

“That’s a challenge, because we are a growing system,” Mah said. “It’s hard … [the budget] can’t be cut on the backs of teachers.”

Baltimore County currently faces a budget shortfall, and County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. has said the school system’s proposed budget will have to be cut.

The early morning community forum at the Arbutus Recreation Center was one of 10 planned community forums around the county, designed for teachers, staff and community members to speak with representatives from Ray and Associates, the firm conducting the national search for Baltimore County’s next superintendent.

The search process has included online surveys and stakeholder focus groups. Ryan Ray, president of Ray and Associates, said he and his firm expect to present a “profile” to the Board of Education by March 27 regarding the qualities the next superintendent should possess based on community feedback.

After the firm presents its findings on community surveys, focus groups and community forums, the process goes dark — Ray and Associates begins to “aggressively” recruit across the country, but the name or names of applicants will not be made public.

“You all want a superintendent that has a good job now. You don’t want a superintendent that’s reading the help wanted ads,” Ray said.

During the meeting, Ray asked those in attendance if they had any candidates for the job in mind who should be considered for the superintendent job. Half the room did not offer any names; the other half said Verletta White, the current BCPS interim superintendent, should be considered for the job permanently.

An online survey for stakeholders is available online until noon Friday. The online job application opens Wednesday and the school system expects a superintendent will be selected by June.

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