Hairston: No conflict of interest on AIM

The Baltimore Sun published an article last week and an editorial this week criticizing my decision to decline a meeting with the Attorney General's office to discuss an ethics matter that had already been reviewed by the Board of Education's Ethics Review Panel in 2007 ("Balto. Co. superintendent refuses to cooperate with ethics inquiry,"Hairston must give answers," Nov. 1).

The issue posed by a special interest group and several state legislators representing Baltimore County raised the possibility of a conflict of interest regarding a school administrator's right to copyright Articulated Instruction Module (AIM), a learning management system that she had created on her own initiative and had allowed Baltimore County Public Schools to use. I encouraged the administrator, who has since retired, to seek legal counsel because Baltimore County Public Schools did not have intellectual property rights as the owner of the program. The Ethics Review Panel determined that there was no conflict of interest in the process.

This year, legislators asked the Attorney General to investigate whether the school system's use of AIM was ethical and whether a meeting of an AIM work group violated the Open Meetings Act when the head of Baltimore County's teachers union was refused impromptu entry. The findings of the Attorney General stated that there were no violations. Because I rightly followed legal processes, no legal conflict of interest existed.

For more than 11 years as superintendent of BCPS, I have been entrusted to provide and deliver high quality public education for all students in Baltimore County regardless of where they reside.

In March 2007, I commissioned Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International to conduct an audit examining the district's curriculum design and delivery system. PDK's extensive report provided recommendations to improve curriculum alignment between what teachers taught in the classroom and the tests used to measure what students learned. I met with representatives from national companies that market curriculum alignment tools. I then met with the administrator whose program quality was comparable to products that were offered by the companies. In many ways, AIM excelled in addressing the academic needs of our students. BCPS is fortunate to have such a tool to help achieve objectives of providing rigorous education for all students.

AIM is a software suite that provides teachers access to the curriculum and the ability to chart student progress. The decision to use AIM as the learning management system for BCPS was thoroughly vetted. AIM is also an excellent system-wide accountability tool that is currently not being used. Ironically, this year, state and federal laws were passed to mandate that each school system must have an accountability process in place.

As superintendent of BCPS, I am unequivocally committed to quality education for my students. I am pleased that BCPS has a decade of high student achievement, verified by data, demonstrating why Baltimore County Public Schools is ranked one of the best in the nation among large, diverse, urban systems.

Joe A. Hairston, Towson

The writer is the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools.

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