Baltimore County school board could conduct national search for next superintendent

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

With time running out to conduct a national search for a new superintendent, the Baltimore County school board is expected to discuss Tuesday whether to initiate that process or to keep the current interim superintendent, Verletta White.

The board has received bids from firms to conduct a national search. Board Chairman Edward J. Gilliss said he expects the board to discuss whether to hire a search firm. White’s one-year contract expires June 30.

The board sought bids in early January from firms to help hire a new leader. The board has not met since the bids were due Jan. 22.

“The board has not yet decided on its final course of action,” Gilliss said. “Since timing is an important element of any decision, the board has commenced the process of considering search firms.”

Gilliss said in an email that the board “continues to be confronted with three alternatives with respect to how best to determine long-term leadership.”

The board could decide against a wide search and hire White as its permanent superintendent. It could keep White on an interim basis for another year — a course that would require the approval of Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon. A third choice would be to consider other candidates without doing a national search, Gilliss said.

Gilliss said he has not seen the bids and doesn’t know which firms, or how many, made proposals. He said the school board will discuss the selection of a superintendent behind closed doors.

The discussions about selecting a new leader for the school system follow the sudden departure of former Superintendent Dallas Dance, who resigned last spring in the middle of his contract. Dance was indicted last week on four counts of perjury for allegedly failing to disclose nearly $147,000 in pay he received for private consulting with several companies and school districts beginning in 2012.

State prosecutors say Dance falsely stated on financial disclosure forms filed with the county school district that he earned no additional income personally or through his consulting company, Deliberate Excellence, in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

White has acknowledged that she worked as a consultant for four years without disclosing the payments to the school system or to the public. She was chief academic officer for the school system before being named interim superintendent after Dance’s departure. She was paid about $3,000 for attending twice-yearly conferences at which she gave advice to clients of Education Research & Development Institutes. ERDI represents educational technology companies, some of which have contracts with the school system.

White has apologized and said she misunderstood the questions on the disclosure forms. She said she would amend her disclosure forms to be accurate and would no longer do outside consulting work. She also said she would no longer travel out of the state for the school system without informing the board.

The forthcoming November elections could complicate a the search for a new superintendent. For the first time, county voters this fall will elect seven of the 12 school board members. If the current board selected a permanent superintendent this spring, that person would be working for new bosses by December.

Tom DeHart, executive director of the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees, the union that represents county school administrators, said he is disappointed the board only recently solicited bids from search firms.

“In my mind the train is pretty much down the track,” he said. In most cases, he said, searches begin in November. He sees the late start for a possible search and the school board election as a “perfect storm” that could discourage good candidates from applying.

“They might sit this one out,” he said.

DeHart said a survey of the union’s members two months ago showed overwhelming support for White to be made permanent superintendent.

The board could seek permission from the state superintendent of schools and request White be given a second year as the interim chief of county schools, he said.

“It allows Verletta to work with a new board and she either passes their muster or not,” he said.

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