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Verletta White to be Baltimore County's interim superintendent for another year

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore County school board voted 8-4 Thursday to continue Verletta White as Baltimore County superintendent until June 2019 — after months of back and forth on the issue.

White, a former chief academic officer, was not in the room during the meeting and did not issue a statement.

State Superintendent Karen Salmon has twice rejected the board’s choice of White as the next permanent superintendent. She has already said she would approve White on an interim basis.

The vote ends a tumultuous nine-month process as White fought for the permanent job. Her supporters testified before the board, signed petitions and held white carnations at public meetings. On the other side, a minority of the board and some critics of White said the system needed a national search and a new direction.

And board members Thursday for the second time tried to derail the appointment, introducing a series of motions that would prevent her from seeking the permanent job next year, or would start a process to consider other inside candidates in the next two weeks.

“It gives us a reset. We have a year to get away from the negative controversies we have faced recently,” said board member Ann Miller, who has consistently voted against White.

Kathleen Causey, another board member, said she hoped the board would discuss giving current school employees the opportunity to apply for the job in the next couple of weeks.

Causey requested the names of all school system employees who have the academic qualifications and experience necessary under state law to become an interim superintendent. She said at the meeting that 35 people, including White, would qualify.

Causey said she would prefer if the board advertised the position to see who might apply in the next week or so. “That would be an open and fair process,” she said.

“There is still time if the board is willing to spend some extra time,” she said. But the motion to do just that failed.

During the discussion, board members spoke over one another, each vying for the floor to say what had already been said in private session, according to comments by the board president Edward Gilliss.

The majority of the school board has supported White as the next superintendent. It voted in April to give her a four-year contract.

That decision was rejected by Salmon, who cited White’s recent ethics violations and the school system’s failure to conduct an audit of the way it awards contracts. The school board then asked Salmon to reconsider the decision. Salmon wrote a letter to the school board last week again declining to approve White, saying her “reservations remain.”

Four members of the board who have represented the minority position for about the past year sat on one side of the board’s meeting table Thursday, accusing the majority of failing to do what they considered a legitimate search for a new leader.

At one point, Stephen Verch, who supports White, made a disparaging comment about the minority and called Salmon “statute illiterate and COMAR deaf,” questioning whether Salmon had the legal authority to decline to approve White as the permanent superintendent under the Code of Maryland Regulations. He said she had cited an incorrect statute in her letter to the board. Salmon’s decision has not been challenged on legal grounds.

White was named interim superintendent last year, following the resignation of Superintendent Dallas Dance, who pleaded guilty to perjury for failing to disclose consulting work. He is currently serving a six-month sentence in a Virginia jail.

White violated two ethics rules when she did part-time consulting work for a firm that represents education technology companies and failed to report it on her financial disclosure forms. She has pledged to no longer do any consulting work and has since amended her forms.

The school board has also hired an accounting firm to do a year-long audit.

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