Why doesn't Baltimore's schools CEO need teaching experience, like other superintendents in the state?

It was a question on the mind of many education observers last week, after hearing that the city's schools chief is not bound by the same requirements.


It was also an issue of confusion for city school officials who, early in the day Tuesday, believed Tisha Edwards, 42 — who will soon become the city's interim schools CEO — would need to apply for a state waiver because while she has been a principal, she has never been a teacher.

But later Tuesday, after consulting lawyers, the state informed city school officials that Edwards need not apply for a waiver, because the structure of state law means such requirements won't apply to her.

"Subsequent to our earlier conversation, the board was informed late afternoon by [the Maryland State Department of Education] that a waiver was not required," said Edie House Foster, a city schools spokeswoman.

Put simply, officials said: Baltimore is unique. Why? The answer lies in the difference between a regulation and a law.

Maryland regulations — set by the state Board of Education — require superintendents to have a master's degree, three years of teaching experience, and two years of administrative experience. They also require superintendents to meet requirements for certification in either childhood, elementary or secondary education and have completed a two-year graduate program in administration.

If prospective superintendents do not meet these requirements, they must seek a state waiver.

Last year, for instance, Baltimore County Superintendent Dallas Dance received a waiver from the teaching requirement on the condition that he complete guest teaching hours in a middle school and high school. It was the first time the state had granted such a waiver in 20 years.

But Maryland law, which trumps state regulations, says only superintendents of the various counties must be certified by the state superintendent. The law that outlines the qualifications for local superintendents — including the requirement for something as basic as a college degree — says specifically it does not apply to Baltimore.

The state law governing Baltimore's schools chief executive officer says only that the CEO must report directly to the city school board, be a cabinet member of the mayor and designate individuals to be in charge of the various aspects of the school system. The law sets only one limit on the city schools CEO position: The contract cannot be written for a term longer than four years.

Edwards, the school system's chief of staff, will serve as interim superintendent through the 2013-2014 school year, as the school board searches for a permanent replacement for CEO Andres Alonso, who led the district for six years.