3 Minutes March 25, 2021

Good evening, Chair Scott, Vice Chair Henn, Dr. Williams, and members of the Board:

It has been a year since I have spoken to the Board. And while I have sent letters, it is a pleasure to be able to speak to you live.

While I haven’t spoken to you in a year, I HAVE been watching. So have teachers, school leaders, community members, various stakeholders, and most importantly—our students.

Like the rest of the world, we have suffered through a pandemic that affects all of us. Additionally, we were hit with a cyberattack that crippled our system.

Leadership is important any time, but with twin crises, leadership is crucial.

Peter Stark says: “In a moment of crisis, reactions set the leaders apart from the followers.” I would ask the Board members to reflect on their actions over the last year. Have you been the cohesive, consistent leaders that our system and community want and deserve? This is obviously a rhetorical question.

Every member of this Board is a talented and intelligent person, and there will certainly be instances of healthy disagreement. But there are clear and consistent signs of partisanship, and to the outside observer, it often comes across as personal dislike for one another in too many instances. Any team or Board is only effective when the individual members work together for a common cause. And quite simply, that common cause is all of our students!

I have great respect for each of you and the time, effort, and energy you put into your role as a member of this Board, and I get no personal satisfaction in bringing this up tonight. But there is an elephant in the room. That elephant is the unfortunate lack of respect and openness to others’ opinions too often exhibited in the Board’s public meetings. This not only gets squarely in the way of the leadership we need and deserve but sets a tremendously poor example for all stakeholders…especially our students.

So, I am asking each of you tonight, to leave partisanship at the virtual door of every future meeting and work collaboratively and cooperatively with one another to lead us through these twin crises and into the future.

And in your collective leadership role, I ask that you keep former NBA champion Chicago Bulls’ coach Phil Jackson’s words in mind: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

On behalf of the system leaders who I represent, as well as all stakeholders, I thank you in advance for much-needed reflection and a re-set as you work together to lead the Baltimore County Public Schools.

Have a great meeting tonight!

Thank you,
Tom DeHart
Executive Director, CASE