—– By: Ann Costantino —-
During a special school board meeting on Tuesday, board members unanimously approved interim Superintendent Verletta White’s new position with Baltimore County Public Schools.
White will work as a consultant for the district and will report directly to incoming Superintendent Darryl L. Williams, who officially takes over the district on July 1.
According to a press release sent by board members late Tuesday, White will spend the next year studying the recruitment and retention of teachers, particularly in high-need areas such as special education, mathematics, science, and teachers of students who are learning English as a second language.
“Teachers are the lifeblood of any school system,” White said. “Recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers is essential for the academic success of students. My plan is to examine the school system’s current recruitment/retention strategy and propose changes that I hope will serve as a win-win for the organization and for our students.”
After school board members voted 8-4 last month for Williams, a Montgomery County schools’ area associate superintendent and 30-year educator, White was permitted to either return to her previous position as the district’s chief academic officer or find another position within the school district for one year.
White, a longtime education leader, professional development coordinator, chief academic officer, and two-year interim superintendent, had applied for the position, but lost in a surprise vote during a May school board meeting.
White took over as interim superintendent in 2017 for the district’s former superintendent, Dallas Dance. At the time, Dance was under criminal investigation for his association with a school system vendor, and left one year into his second four-year contract.
Dance was convicted last year of perjury for providing misleading information on his financial disclosure statements and served four months in a Virginia jail.
Communities had been split over support for White, who is known as a homegrown educator, having attended and taught in Baltimore County Public Schools for years.
Critics said they wanted a fresh start after Dance’s fall. Supporters blamed White’s inability to sever a perceived association with Dance, as well as contention she had with some members of the school board with whom she sometimes battled.
White had been selected as the system’s permanent superintendent last year by the previous school board whose term ended in December, but failed to obtain approval from Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon. Salmon instead approved White for a second year as interim superintendent.
Salmon had declined to approve White twice for the job, citing an ethical violation and the system’s failure to complete a requested procurement audit that spanned Dance’s five year tenure.
White and Dance worked as paid consultants for the Education Research and Development Institute. Both leaders failed to report the side jobs and income on their financial disclosure statements.
Unlike Dance, White was not accused of any crime, but an ethics panel determined that both violated their contracts by not disclosing the positions.
During the two years leading the system, White worked to distance herself from Dance, stating at a February school board meeting that she felt some on the school board were punishing the school district for Dance’s misdeeds.
At last week’s regularly scheduled board meeting, White asked the district and communities to, “be kind to one another. Tell the truth, of course, but be kind to one another other… Assume the best in people, and the not the worst, because our children are watching…. Start and end every conversation with children. And we will never go wrong when we do that…”
White said that one of her goals was to stabilize the school system. She was known throughout her tenure leading the district for her phrase, “gift with purchase.”
White promoted literacy, equity, and high quality instruction. She wanted students to know that they would graduate with an added gift of not only a diploma, but a resume of experiences from Baltimore County schools, consisting of real-world skills and knowledge.
In her parting comments last week, White welcomed Williams and said “I have to tell you, he is one heck of a nice guy.” She concluded, “I will always be a part of BCPS. I am BCPS… And, never forget, we are BCPS and we are BCPS strong.”
Williams was also introduced publicly for the first time at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Williams said the district did not have to be sick, in order to get better. “We must raise the bar, close our gaps and prepare our students for our future,” he said. “I also hope to make sure that we have open and transparent communication, and to strengthen the trust among the adults – and between students and adults…”