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Md. school board leaders: Sun wrong to criticize superintendent’s pay and COVID-19 plan for schools | READER COMMENTARY

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announces that Maryland's public schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus during a news conference on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)
Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announces that Maryland's public schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus during a news conference on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Brian Witte) (Brian Witte/AP)

The Maryland State Board of Education was very disappointed in the recent unbalanced Baltimore Sun articles and editorial, which grossly mischaracterized the leadership of State Superintendent Karen Salmon and the actions of the board and Maryland State Department of Education (”Maryland school superintendent Salmon faulted for poor leadership, communication,” July 29; “Maryland’s state schools superintendent received a boost in pay with new contract,” Aug. 11; and “State school board hands out an ill-timed, unwarranted pay raise,” Aug. 13). Here is the information that we provided to The Baltimore Sun, which would have provided more context for the citizens of Maryland if it had been included in the reporting:

Under Maryland state law, the state superintendent of schools was not eligible for any salary increase during the four-year term of her contract. The salary in the current contract effectively delivers an approximate 4% increase annually. Still, compared to the market rates of pay, the superintendent’s salary remains less than that of three local school systems superintendents.

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Also, the Maryland State Board of Education asked Superintendent Salmon to reconsider her retirement and remain for one additional year to maintain strong, experienced and consistent leadership, while facing the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. The board’s decision is paying dividends as this summer under Superintendent Salmon’s guidance, Maryland crafted “Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education,” which has been recognized as one of 13 states and territories having the most comprehensive K-12 school reopening plans in the nation.

Beyond challenging the salary of the superintendent, the articles challenged her leadership through the COVID emergency. The Recovery Plan reflects the superintendent’s and board’s commitment to creating a safe learning environment for students and educators and setting guardrails for local school systems’ success while also intentionally providing local flexibility to tailor solutions to best fit individual communities. It is critical to realize the role of the state superintendent and state board is to establish policy and monitor compliance. Local school systems determine how such policy will be implemented to respond to the needs and conditions of the local communities.

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MSDE will review local recovery plans to ensure they address the 13 requirements for opening schools including formation of local stakeholder groups, incorporation of local equity plans, assessment of students learning, adherence to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and compliance with health and safety guidance for COVID-19.

The recovery plan is a living document. That means it will continue to evolve. The state board and MSDE invite public comment at each state board meeting and comments can also always be submitted via email at stateboard.msde@maryland.gov or info.msde@maryland.gov.

Clarence C. Crawford and Jean Halle

The writers are, respectively, president and vice president of the Maryland State Board of Education.

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Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

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