Kamenetz, Baker Fail Leadership Test
The latest school scandal in Baltimore County looks like it might be winding down.
Baltimore County interim school superintendent Verletta White announced Friday that she will no longer receive pay from consulting work and will abide by new restrictions on her out-of-state travel.
White will accept compensation only from the school system, seek and obtain school board approval before taking any out-of-state trips and post information about any travel on the district’s website, according to a joint statement released by White and the county school board. Board members also agreed to publicly disclose any trips they take.
All travel for White will be paid for by the school district, not outside groups, under the new agreement. And the board has instructed its ethics review panel to revise rules governing how school officials report consulting fees, gifts and other income from outside organizations. The statement said there are “ambiguities” in the rules but did not elaborate.
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The announcement follows an investigation by The Baltimore Sun which found that for four years, White worked as a consultant for a company that promotes education technology firms without disclosing the payments to the school system or the public. School officers are required to report outside income on annual financial disclosure forms.
This isn’t the only school-related scandal going on in Maryland. Don’t forget the multiple scandals going on in Prince George’s County schools. One involving graduation rates….
Grades for nearly 5,500 students in a Maryland school system were changed days before graduation during the past two years, according to results from an investigation sparked by concerns that educators were fraudulently boosting graduation rates.
Findings from the review of Prince George’s County public schools, which were released Friday, also found rampant lapses in documentation and nearly 60 instances of students being ineligible to graduate.
The 211-page report pointed to problems in grading and student absenteeism, but did not find that tampering was ordered by the district’s leadership, which includes chief executive Kevin Maxwell. Nor was there evidence of systemwide intimidation, according to the independent investigators, who were hired after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered a review.
The report said 107 people filed complaints during a seven-week investigation — which ended Tuesday — and that nearly half of those related to improper grade changes and ineligible graduates.
As investigators visited the 28 high schools in the Prince George’s school system, they conducted an examination of randomly selected records for 1,212 students with late grade changes.
The results were troubling: The investigators found about 30 percent of the students whose records were reviewed either lacked documentation that justified graduation or were clearly ineligible.
The sexual abuse Carraway inflicted on students at Woods Elementary has been widely publicized after the scandal that shook Maryland’s second-largest school district broke in February 2016. But documents filed in court this week offer the first detailed insight into how Carraway — a man in his early 20s who regularly showed up at the Glenarden school in his pajamas and by his lawyer’s account had an IQ of 63 — leveraged a friendship with the school principal and a “total lack of supervision” on campus to gain unlimited access to his victims.
The cases are related to each other in a few ways. The first is the most obvious: that the cases involve gross incompetence and mismanagement on behalf of the public school systems of the respective counties. Neither county had the appropriate oversight for what was going in their school system, and as a result school employees fight like they had carte blanche to get away with whatever they could.
The other thing they have in common is the 2018 Democratic primary for Governor.
The County Executives of both school systems, Baltimore County’s Kevin Kamenetz and Prince George’s County’s Rushern Baker, are seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor. Both make their experience as county executives the key selling point as to why they believe they should be the next Governor of Maryland.
But that should leave voters with a few questions about the strength of their leadership. In both counties, the public school system takes up an enormous portion of the county budget. While neither county executive has direct control over the school system or its budget, both are responsible for introducing the school system budget as part of their overall county budgets.
Did neither think to check in on the school system? Did either Kamenetz or Baker bother to check in to make sure that the school system was doing its core function responsibly? Did either make sure that top officials in the school system were acting in an ethically responsible manner?
It appears from the scandals that were going on right under their noses that the answer is “No.”
Sadly, this isn’t the first series of ethical challenges that either man has failed to deal with.
We’ve discussed Kevin Kamenetz’s numerous ethics problems before. Remember when his administration ordered county employees to attend his gubernatorial announcement speech? What about his neglect of Lansdowne High? What about the soft corruption running rampant in the county? And that doesn’t even take into account Kamenetz’s inability to ensure that kids go to school in air-conditioned rooms, failure to deal with a bug outbreak, or his focus on building a horse arena for rich supporters.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget Rushern Baker’s inability to properly fill out ethics forms, or his dismissal of County Councilman Mel Franklin’s multiple DUI charges as unimportant.
Sadly, the issues facing public schools in Baltimore County and Prince George’s County are not a blip on the radar. They are a symptom of failed leadership at the highest levels of county government. Both Kevin Kamenetz and Rushern Baker want voters to judge them on their records as county executives. Both of them believe that voters should look at their records as county executives and decide that this is the kind of leadership that they want in the state of Maryland.
After three years of competent, ethical, and responsible leadership from Governor Larry Hogan, voters are not going to want to go back to the bad old days with Kamenetz or Baker. With all of the corruption and incompetence they have allowed to occur under the noses of both Kevin Kamenetz and Rushern Baker have failed the leadership test to be Governor.