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Verletta White Named Interim Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools
Posted by Ann Costantino on 23rd May 2017
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Verletta White, New Interim Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools    Photo Credit: Center for Digital Education

Appointment supported by Board members, signals fresh start for school system.

 

Baltimore County Public Schools’ Chief Academic Officer, Verletta White, has been selected as the school system’s interim superintendent, replacing Dr. Dallas Dance, whose last day will be on June 30, 2017.  Immediately following public comments during the May 23rd Board Meeting, Board Member Steve Verch made the motion while first listing White’s achievements “…that being Verletta White, as the interim superintendent, for the period of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, subject to the Board and Ms. White entering into a mutually agreeable contract, and further subject to the statutorily mandated approval of the Maryland State Superintendent of our schools.” 

The motion was approved unanimously by the Board.

Board Member Ann Miller stated “I am voting yes on this motion because, first, the outcome is predetermined; and second, Ms. White deserves every opportunity to prove herself in this role.”  Miller lamented the process that led to the decision which she felt occurred outside of a public input process and asked that immediate priority be placed on discipline issues within the school system.  Board Member Marisol Johnson read letters from a Johnnycake Elementary class that gave input into the superintendent selection process, in which three children were hopeful that a woman would be selected for the job.

White has served as the system’s instructional leader since 2013, and has worked closely with Dance and others – as second in command – assisting in defining and implementing Dance’s vision and Blueprint 2.0.  Beginning her teaching career in 1992 as an elementary school teacher in Baltimore City, White transferred to Baltimore County Public Schools in 1995, teaching for three more years before her promotion to a school administrator through 2006. Those roles included Principal of Seneca Elementary, Coordinator of Leadership Development, Executive Director of Professional Development, and Northeast Area Assistant Superintendent District 3, under previous BCPS Superintendent Dr. Joe Hairston.

While principal of Seneca Elementary in 2006, White was one of 23 awarded with a National Principal’s Mentor Certification after completing a rigorous and extensive yearlong course to be certified.

White earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Towson University, a Master of Arts in Leadership Teaching from Notre Dame and is working on her Doctorate in Urban Education Leadership at Morgan State University. She is also a Woodlawn High School graduate and has two children in Baltimore County Public Schools.  Altogether, Ms. White has invested over twenty five years in the field of education and is intimately familiar with Baltimore County Public Schools.  As a result, her transition into the role of interim superintendent should make this a smooth process for the school system.

Since Dance’s sudden resignation April 18, rumors have swirled about who would be taking his place, and whether it would be a permanent hire or an interim.  During at least one of Dance’s speaking engagements in 2015, he stated humorously that he intended to “force” White to become a superintendent “one day.”  And it appears that day has come.

At the close of BCPS’ statements at last month’s County Council Budget Meeting, Dance was flanked by White and Kevin Smith, BCPS’ Chief Administrative and Operations Officer. Dance ended by saying BCPS was in “good hands” with them.

Both Kevin Smith and Verletta White bring vast experience and knowledge to Baltimore County Public Schools – and how to run the system – which has undergone often frustrating, disorienting and rapid change, and has been a school system that has been mired in controversy over the past five years.

One such controversy involved both Dance and BCPS with Chicago based SUPES Academy, a superintendent and principal preparation firm that was investigated by the FBI for a series of kickback schemes which involved school systems from across the country – including Baltimore County’s.  After Dance – a SUPES Academy graduate – brought a SUPES contract to BCPS, he accepted a job as a consultant and master teacher for Chicago Pubic School’s principal training program called CELA (Chicago Executive Leadership Academy), a decision that landed him with his first ethics violation.  It also resulted in three recent federal prison sentences for the two former SUPES owners: 7 years for Gary Solomon and 18 months for Thomas Vranas.  A 4.5 year prison sentence was handed down for Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former Chief of Chicago Public Schools and friend and mentor of Dr. Dance.   Dance resigned ten days before Barbara Byrd Bennett was sentenced last month.

Some of the issues arising from school system changes have dealt with STAT, BCPS 1:1 laptop initiative, issues with discipline due to changes to its policy and directives, incomplete curriculum, changes in BCPS’ Gifted and Talented program, and this year’s grading policy change, among others.  While White has been charged with the implementation of some of those changes, some community members have felt that the prospect of having her take the helm has been one filled with relief and promise, due to an ease of transition and her familiarity with the school system, as well as being a familiar face who has been privy to the consistently relayed concerns of teachers, parents and stakeholders.  Some in the community have expressed their approval of White and have called her a very good listener who can handle almost any situation with grace and ease.  Others are concerned about comments made about STAT and screen time, yet remain optimistic and pleased with her demeanor and reputation for being an ear for principals, as well as someone who has been receptive to the needs of individual schools.

It is unknown at this time what will happen after White’s one year term, and whether or not another interim appointment will be made or if the current Board will select the next permanent superintendent prior to the hybrid board elections in November 2018.  An interesting twist due to a bill that passed in Annapolis last session, is that in December 2018, all but one Board member will vacate their seats for the incoming Hybrid Elected Board.  The “senior” Board member will be the student member, also known as SMOB, who starts her term on July 1, and will have been in her seat for five months before the remaining members are seated.

Board members have heard their share of criticism throughout the years.  Some of what has been heaped upon them has been due to the absence of oversight by some of the members, their unwillingness to practice it, and a disagreement about what the Board’s responsibilities are.  Over recent months, changes have been made to policies which have increased the superintendent’s power, while simultaneously decreasing the Board’s oversight which is in direct conflict with BCPS’ organizational chart.  Also once on that chart – yet now absent – is an entire segment of the county that was previously displayed atop the Board of Education’s position, which illustrated the actual hierarchy of oversight.  That group was stakeholders, which includes parents, teachers, students and taxpayers.

In recent online polls by two board members, each asked what was most important to the respondent in considering a new superintendent.  Among the answers given were experience in the classroom, integrity, no outside work and listening to the community.

As we turn the page this summer, to a new chapter for Baltimore County Public Schools, the community should continue to be vigilant and act as if it still has a place on that organizational chart – as it once did in a previous version – by remaining engaged, present, and vocal – yet ever respectful.  Let us welcome Verletta White to the dais, and let us give her a chance to lead this school system collaboratively, with the grace and skill she has demonstrated thus far.

 

{Ann Costantino is a contributing writer for The Baltimore Post}