—– By: Ann Costantino —–
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is challenging the Baltimore County school board over its decision to hire outgoing Interim Superintendent Verletta White for a one-year consulting position for which White will earn nearly $233,000, plus benefits.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Hogan criticized the board for not only the financial agreement with White, but also for keeping her on as an employee of the school system.
“In an outrageous display of arrogance and waste, the Baltimore County Board of Education approved an exorbitant contract for former interim Superintendent Verletta White, who was unable to become the permanent Superintendent because of serious ethical lapses and – instead of getting fired – she is rewarded with a consultant compensation and expenses package of more than $240,000 a year. Simply outrageous,” Hogan said. “The students of Baltimore County would be far better served if these funds were used for educational purposes in classrooms instead of consulting services and costly stipends for a car and cell phone.”
It appears Hogan’s gripe is with the previous school board, whose former leadership negotiated the terms prior to the swearing-in of a new partially elected board, whose term began in December.
The contractual agreement, approved by the prior board in July of last year, spelled out terms of White’s future employment with the school system, in the event that she were not to be selected as the system’s permanent superintendent.
After White was defeated last month when school board members voted 8-4 for Montgomery County schools’ area associate superintendent, Darryl L. Williams, the new board was faced with approving White’s return to the system as a high level employee.
As part of the contract, signed by previous board Chairman Edward Gilliss and White, the school board approved the terms.
Page 14 makes her employment terms clear. “If the Interim Superintendent does not apply for the position of superintendent or is not selected by the board as the superintendent, then upon the effective date of the appointment of the new superintendent (or interim superintendent) the interim superintendent shall be returned to her previous position of Chief Academic Officer, or a similar position in the School System. The Intern Superintendent’s salary and benefits for at least one year thereafter will not be less than the salary and benefits she would have received as Chief Academic Officer for the 2017-2018 school year.”
A separation agreement, obtained by The Baltimore Post through a Maryland Public Information Act request on Monday, also clarified that White and the school board agreed that her return to the position as chief academic officer would cause confusion for school system administrators.
White served as the system’s chief academic officer for four years, prior to taking the position as interim superintendent in 2017, a position she held for two years.
During that time, the previous school board approved White as permanent leader, but White twice failed to obtain the approval from state schools superintendent, Karen Salmon, who cited ethical violations and the absence of a procurement audit.
White was flagged by an ethics panel in 2018 for using her prestige of office when she worked as a consultant for the Education Research and Development Institute, a consulting company that hires top school administrators to meet with its paying clients who seek feedback about products and services.
White also did not disclose the consulting position on her financial disclosure statements. She apologized for the error, stating she was confused by the forms.
Salmon also asked the school board to conduct a nationwide search for a new leader, which could include White as a candidate. But when White failed to gain the approval for the position by the new school board, she was permitted to return to the school system for at least one year based on the earlier agreement.
As consultant, White will study 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.
White is a longtime educator, who served the system for 24 years, rising from a teacher, assistant principal and principal to high-level administrative positions in the system’s central office.
While communities had been split on support for White, she was also highly regarded as an educator and leader who devoted years of service to Baltimore County schools and its students.
White will earn a one-year salary of $232,709, a steep decline from her previous salary of $273,000 earned as interim superintendent during the prior school year.
White will also receive full medical, vacation and retirement benefits, as well as annual stipends for auto at $8,772 and $2,028 for her cell phone, all permitted under the contract approved by board members last year.
She will report directly to Superintendent Williams and will provide reports every quarter during her one-year contract which will end on June 30, 2020.
As part of the separation agreement, board members and White also agreed not to discuss events leading up to the consulting agreement – or any of its details – leaving board members unable to explain the decision to approve a brand new position created specifically for White.
“(T)erms, amount, and negotiations leading to (the agreement) shall be kept strictly confidential, to the extent allowed by law,” the agreement stated.