The Baltimore County school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to name Verletta White, who has risen through the ranks from teacher to one of the top officials in the system, as interim superintendent.
White, 49, will replace Dallas Dance, who resigned suddenly April 18. The school board decided to appoint an interim superintendent because it did not have sufficient time to do a national search for a permanent replacement by the time Dance leaves office at the end of June.
The one-year appointment is subject to approval by the state superintendent of schools. It will begin July 1.
No contract has been signed, and it is not known what White's salary will be.
Board member Stephen Verch described White as a retiring and modest person, as well as someone who has shown a deep interest in supporting the community.
He added he was glad to be voting for a Woodlawn High School graduate.
White not only graduated from Baltimore County schools, but she has two children who attend county schools, Verch said.
Board member David Uhlfelder said, "I am a big proponent of selecting from within."
"I am so very pleased we have such a talented person as Verletta White," said board Chairman Edward Gilliss.
Board member Ann Miller criticized the selection process, which she said was done behind closed doors. However, she said that she was supporting White.
"I am excited," said White. "It has been an orderly process." Her first steps, she said, will be to meet with students, advisory groups, county officials and others around the county "to make sure we are on the same page."
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the board "made a wise choice selecting Chief Academic Officer Verletta White, who has 25 years of experience in the County school system, and will ensure continuation of our legacy of success."
Abby Beytin, president of the county teachers union, also expressed her approval of the choice. "There is no one who knows the system better," she said. "My feeling is that she will want us to move steadily."
Beytin said teachers are tired of change and want a steady hand who won't introduce any new programs, giving them time to implement what is already in place.
Dance voiced his approval of White's selection. "I look forward to bright days ahead for TeamBCPS as she builds on the success of our system and make it even better," he said.
White has been the chief academic officer since 2013, when Dance chose her shortly after he became superintendent.
She has stood behind all of Dance's initiatives, even those that ran into opposition, such as a new grading policy instituted this school year.
Gilliss said the board can decide this year whether it will conduct a national search to find a permanent replacement.
The county will switch from an all-appointed board to a partially elected board after the 2018 elections.
Some board members have worried that superintendent candidates would not want to be hired just as they are about to get a new school board to answer to.
If the board were later to ask White to take the job for two years, it would have to seek approval from the state.
Maryland law requires superintendents to work under four-year contracts that run from July 1 to June 30. It is unusual for an interim superintendent to remain in place for two years, but it has happened recently in Montgomery County.
White's education career began in 1992 after she graduated from Towson University.
She taught second, third and fourth grades at Garrett Heights Elementary School in Baltimore City then moved to Summit Park Elementary in Pikesville to teach third grade.
She was a teacher mentor, then became an assistant principal and finally a principal of Seneca Elementary School in Bowleys Quarters in 2000.
She rose through the ranks quickly under the former superintendent, Joe Hairston, holding a variety of administrative jobs before being named assistant superintendent of schools in 2009.
She holds a master's degree in leadership in teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland University and is currently a doctoral candidate at Morgan State University.
White lives in northern Baltimore County.
Dance will leave with three years remaining on a four-year contract. At the time of his resignation, he said he did not have a new job, but had job prospects.
Superintendents usually tell their school boards in the fall if they are leaving in order to give the board time to do a national search and hire a replacement.
Since he was hired, Dance had the support of the majority of the board. More recently, however, several board members have voted against his proposals.