3 Minutes July 9, 2019

Good evening, Board Chair Causey, Vice Chair Henn, Superintendent Williams, and members of the Board.

Welcome, Dr. Williams, to your first official public school board meeting. As you know, you are coming to Baltimore County at a time with many critical issues facing this board, the system, communities, and individual schools.

However, by referencing Stephen Covey’s “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” you have shown great wisdom in recognizing that there is far more right with BCPS than there is wrong.

As you are aware, perhaps the single-most difficult, but essential, component for the success of any organization is consistency. Roger Staubach said: “In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.” This applies to Team BCPS, and CASE welcomes your stated desire (and we hope demand) for your three C’s—Communication, Consistency, and Coherence—in the daily operation of our system.

The members of CASE hold positions that are the face of BCPS. They are the front-line leadership that is crucial to the success of our system, which is measured by the success of our students. Quite candidly, these folks are too often the ones who are caught in the middle of inconsistent policies and practices.

CASE is excited that principals will be included on the teams you are creating in your 100 Day Entry Plan, around Strategic Leadership, Relationship Building, and Professional Development. The knowledge, experience, and insight gained in their position will be very helpful as you continue to get to know the system.

Again, welcome, Dr. Williams. CASE looks forward to establishing and maintaining a long and collaborative relationship with you.

Thank you.

Tom DeHart

Executive Director, CASE

3 Minutes May 7, 2019

Good evening, Board Chair Causey, Vice Chair Henn, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

On this Teacher Appreciation Day, CASE would like to take this opportunity to thank all the hard-working teachers in BCPS. The vast majority of CASE members were teachers, and we recognize and appreciate the dedication and perseverance necessary to be successful in the classroom. Again, thank you teachers!

Transparency—currently one of the sexiest terms in our society. I Googled the term and came up with over 12 and a half billion results! Transparency is regularly touted as standard operating procedure in government at the federal, state, and local levels, and yes, even by this school board.

For the sake of discussion, I’ll use the definition of transparency found in Wikipedia. Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.

Last month CASE requested of this Board that, in the spirit of transparency, they share the names of the 2–3 finalists for BCPS superintendent and bring each of them into our community for a day to meet with various stakeholder groups. This is common practice in superintendent searches nationally.

CASE appreciates each member of this Board, and the hard work and dedication you have, and continue to, put into this search.

That said, CASE is challenging the Board go on record tonight to either commit to this transparent practice of meeting the superintendent finalists or maintain the current plan, which is to call a press conference and announce the permanent superintendent.

The Board needs to decide which of these choices exemplifies the level of transparency it espouses. CASE sees it as an easy choice. We think the members of this Board should see it that way too.

Thank you,

Tom DeHart, CASE Executive Director

3 Minutes April 9, 2019

Good evening, Board Chair Causey, Vice Chair Henn, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

We are in the midst of our superintendent search. Please notice that I said “our”, not “the Board” or just “the search”. I say this because this search process belongs to all stakeholders…not just the Board. As Vice Chair Henn said in her Facebook post yesterday when discussing the superintendent search, “Process matters”.

So, let’s lay out that process. First, thank you to this Board for providing multiple opportunities for stakeholders to share our desires for the next superintendent with Ray and Associates staff. I attended three of the sessions, including the CASE session, where, by the way, Superintendent White was given resounding support as the permanent superintendent. The search process, following stakeholder input, was shared with us by Ray. Stakeholders’ input in the sessions and online, was used to create a flyer with the desired characteristics to be shared with candidates who inquire, or with candidates Ray reaches out to, or those who may already be in Ray’s database.

Ray will cull the applicants for this Board, who will then work to further refine the list based on questions they design. Responses will be completed in an anonymous fashion, and based on the responses, the list will be whittled down to the finalists. The Board will interview them in person and choose the superintendent and announce it to the public.

There is something missing in this process. Our community will not know who any of the candidates are until we are told who the Board has chosen. CASE realizes the need for anonymity early in the process in order to attract candidates who otherwise may not apply, as they are probably already employed and don’t want to jeopardize their current position. However, CASE emphatically recommends that when the Board chooses the 2–3 finalists, they are publicized and each are brought into our district for a day to meet the public, staff, and stakeholders as neighboring districts, as districts across the country have done. Since this Board’s leadership espouses transparency and has stated that the process matters, we should expect no less.

One last thought about process and the Board. CASE encourages each member to continue to be an independent thinker and make decisions based on your knowledge and your beliefs. That is all we can expect, and we trust you will.

Thank you for your dedication and thoughtful deliberation during this process, that is so important to all of us.

Thank you,

Tom DeHart

Parkville High School Principal

Parkville High School Principal Testifies Before Baltimore County Board’s Policy Review Committee

On February 26th, Parkville High School principal and CASE Executive Board member Maureen Astarita testified before BCPS Board’s Policy Review Committee. The committee is in the process of reviewing student discipline policies. Maureen shared members’ insights, concerns and recommendations. Thank you, Maureen, for a great presentation!

Parkville High School Principal

3 Minutes February 5, 2019

Good evening Board Chair Causey, Vice Chair Henn, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

Two weeks ago, I spoke with you about how a vision was a preferred future, and how a budget needs to be aligned with, and support the vision for that future.

I reminded you that as the School Board, you need to determine the budget needs to support our vision and send that request to the County Executive. I suggested that a Board of Education’s role is to ask for what is needed and not what you thought the County could afford.

Increased funding is needed to meet the growing demand of our communities. Enrollment continues to grow as do the complex needs of our students. If funding doesn’t grow accordingly, the status quo is not maintained, but rather there is regression in services and supports.

We cannot assume that we can fund maintenance of effort for a year and then pick up where we left off. MOE will create a lag which may take years to overcome.

Clearly the county has funding issues, but there seems to be a growing sentiment that increasing revenue is overdue. Hopefully, we will receive increased education dollars from the state. Our county legislators are currently working at the state level to approve impact fees, and it is time that tax rates, either property or income be increased as they haven’t been in over 25 years.

We simply can’t expect to continue to provide the quality services to a growing and increasingly complex student body if funding doesn’t keep pace. And by the way, the education portion of the county budget has decreased over the past several years.

The revised budget presented to this Board two weeks ago is simply unacceptable. CASE continues to support the original budget proposed by Superintendent White. So tonight, I ask you again: Ask for what is needed to grow Baltimore County Public Schools to meet the growing needs of our system, and provide fair compensation for our staff. To ask for less is a disservice to our students, parents, employees, and community.

Thank you,

Tom DeHart

3 Minutes January 22, 2019

Good evening Chairwoman Causey, Vice Chair Henn, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

You have had a very busy two weeks since the you received the proposed budget, and you have another busy two weeks before you approve it. At last week’s hearing, the public was very supportive, so tonight, I will share CASE’s thoughts on the budget. But first I will start with vision.

Everything begins with a vision. In December, I shared the Board’s vision as written in the BCPS Board Handbook. It states in pertinent part, that the Board “…will seek in every way to make the school system among the highest performing school systems in the nation.” It has been said that a vision is the “preferred future”.

In order for BCPS to progress toward our preferred future, many things have to happen. All of which are supported by allocation of funds. You see, a vision must be aligned with, and supported by a budget. Kind of like the old expression “Put your money where your mouth is.” The budget presented to this Board includes focus on:

  • Special Education and English Learners
  • Literacy and mathematics
  • Growth and infrastructure
  • Transportation
  • School Climate and Safety

Maryland law requires that every district meet a minimum maintenance of effort in their fiscal support. Districts that merely meet the maintenance of effort have great difficulty addressing needs and progressing toward their preferred futures.

This budget has a modest increase over maintenance of effort, but if our preferred future really is to make our system among the highest performing in the nation, we must be willing to ask for what we need to do that.

So as a Board, you need to determine the budget needs to support our vision and send that request to the County Executive. That’s a Board of Education’s role – ask for what is needed. Don’t cut from the budget because you feel the Executive, or the Council will cut it. This is a large budget, but modest in additional requests. CASE asks that you approve the budget as presented to you by the Superintendent.

Thank you in advance for your advocacy of this budget.

Tom DeHart

3 Minutes December 11, 2018

Good evening Chairwoman Causey, Vice Chair Henn, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

Welcome to each of you as you embark on a journey of service to the students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community at large in the Baltimore County Public Schools.

I am Tom DeHart, Executive Director for the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees. CASE is the principals, assistant principals, supervisors, coordinators, specialists and PPWs, the front-line leadership in our system. We look forward to working with and supporting this Board.

With this first-ever hybrid Board you have either been elected by your constituents or appointed by the governor to serve. Congratulations! Each of you bring your own unique strengths, talents, ideas, and beliefs. The political process has placed you on this Board, however we ask that you check your politics at the door, avoid a conflict-driven approach, and work collaboratively to tackle the myriad of issues you will face over the coming years.

In past remarks I have quoted Casey Stengel who said “Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” This is especially fitting as you begin your service together.

And begin you will! You must hit the ground running, starting tonight with consideration of the results of the High School Capacity Study, and then time sensitive issues including decisions on the school calendar, budget, school construction, and various contracts. And oh yeah, search for a permanent superintendent, which may well be the most important decision you make.

As you begin your tenure together, I want to remind you of the Board’s vision found in the Baltimore County Board of Education Handbook:

“The Board of Education, as the governing body for the County’s school system, will seek in every way to make the school system among the highest performing school systems in the nation as the result of creating, sustaining, and investing in a culture of deliberate excellence for every student, in every school and in every community.”

This clear, concise, and forward-thinking vision should serve as the litmus test for every decision this Board makes.

Thank you,

Tom DeHart

3 Minutes November 20, 2018

Good evening Chairman Gillis, Vice Chair Stewart, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

Well, here we are at the last Board meeting in November, and the meeting that I am sure many of you have been eagerly anticipating…your final one!

On behalf of CASE, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your service to the students, parents, BCPS employees, and the community at large.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is What are you doing for others?’” Each of you has fully answered that question. While maintaining careers and being active with your families you have dedicated yourselves to serving with honor and dedication on this Board. In a role that is too often thankless.

I am sure that the general public does not realize the commitment and sacrifice that each of you have made in your service on the Board. These twice monthly meetings are only the tip of the iceberg in the dozens of hours you spend each week in your role. Subcommittees, hearings, retreats, endless emails and phone calls, and homework preparation are but a few of the other commitments you have.

It’s been said that, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Members of the Board: I would suggest that your rent is paid in full.

Thank you!

Ms. Causey and Ms. Henn—congratulations on your recent election to serve on our next Board. We look forward to your experience and leadership.

CASE would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Thank you,

Tom DeHart

November 20, 2018

3 Minutes October 9, 2018

Good evening Chairman Gillis, Vice Chair Stewart, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

October is Principal Appreciation month. As an Air Force brat who attended 13 schools in 12 years, I experienced a lot of principals, who I recall as older veterans who had worked their way up to finish their careers. William Whyte described these middle managers in his 1950’s classic The Organization Man – as an overseer of buses, boilers, and books.

In today’s rapidly changing era of standards-based reform and accountability, a different description has emerged. Today’s principals contribute 25% to student achievement and no longer function only as managers (although that task remains on their plates), but rather as leaders of learning who can develop a team delivering effective instruction.

The Wallace Foundation suggests that principal leadership entails five key responsibilities:

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students — one based on high standards
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education — in order that safety, a cooperative spirit and other foundations of fruitful interaction occur
  • Cultivating leadership in others — so that teachers and other adults assume their parts in realizing the school vision
  • Improving instructionto enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn at their utmost
  • Managing people, data, and processes — to foster school improvement

These five tasks all interact with one another in order for any part to succeed and are undergirded by the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders which BCPS uses to grow and evaluate principals.

I have worked with principals across this state, and Baltimore County has the best principals around. I would need three hours, not three minutes to describe to you the care, perseverance, dedication, loyalty, work ethic, and professionalism they exhibit every single day. For 50–60 hours a week. And then principals never really go home, as they carry their schools with them. 

Nationally, principal retention rates are plummeting. BCPS new principal support in the form of principal mentors, as well as the shift in compliance to coaching at the Zone level is encouraging, but the position has great burn out potential. 

The principal’s role may be the loneliest job in education. CASE encourages the Board, central office, and the public to offer sincere thanks and appreciation this and every month for the tireless and stressful work these folks do. Often, all it takes is a note, phone call, or visit to the principal, to remind them why they undertook such a daunting role. 

Thank you,

Tom DeHart

Principals Say Coaching, Not Compliance, Is What They Need From Central Office


In six districts that changed the role of the administrators who oversee principals, those supervisors are spending more time in schools—coaching principals and helping them become better instructional leaders.

Seventy-six percent of principals in those districts said that their bosses usually or always provided them with “actionable feedback,” as a result of the time spent in their schools.

Those districts also started programs to train current and future principal supervisors. They also largely made changes in their central offices so that principal supervisors could focus much more on instructional leadership and less on operations and compliance. And, on average, those districts reduced the number of principals that supervisors were tasked with overseeing, from an average of 17 to 12 over a period of three years.

principal supervisor graphic 2.JPG

Those are some of the findings from a Vanderbilt University and Mathematica Policy Research study on the implementation of the first three years of a four-year, $24 million principal supervisor initiative in six urban school systems that is funded by the Wallace Foundation.

The six districts in the initiative are Broward County, Fla., Baltimore city schools, Cleveland, Des Moines, Long Beach, Calif., and Minneapolis.

The report, based on interviews and surveys with central office staffers, principals, and principal supervisors, is the first of three on the initiative. A second, due next July, will look at the impact of the initiative on principal effectiveness.

“I see this as a good news story about district reform and change,” said Ellen Goldring, the report’s lead author and a professor of educational leadership and policy at Vanderbilt University.

While there were variations among the districts—they all started in different places—Goldring said that focusing on the principal supervisor role led to structural and cultural shifts in the central office and ultimately in the districts. In redefining the role of the principal supervisors, districts had to rethink how resources were allocated to schools, how schools were supported, and how schools were grouped.

“This is not just a role change, and everything else in the district stays the same,” she said. “If there is not holistic support to changing the role of the supervisor, there won’t be real change.”

When the New York City-based Wallace Foundation launched the program in 2014, principal supervisor was a catch-all term that meant different things in different districts.

Principal supervisors spent the bulk of their time ensuring that principals complied with district rules and regulations and less time on evaluating and coaching them and helping them become better at their jobs. They were in charge of too many principals—the average “span” (the number of schools a supervisor oversaw) was 25, according to a 2013 report by the organization that represents the nation’s urban school districts, the Council of the Great City Schools. And across districts, there was very little uniformity in what principal supervisors were expected to do and who did the job.

Reshuffling the Central Office

Part of the initiative involved coming up with a clear job description of what supervisors should do. The role was supposed to focus on instructional leadership. The other areas of focus included reducing the number of principals that supervisors oversaw, training supervisors to better support principals; creating systems to spot and develop future supervisors; and changing the central office to support supervisors and principals.

The Wallace Foundation expected the changes in the central office to occur later, as the program progressed, but realized as early as a year into the initiative that districts were already reshuffling the central office to support principal supervisors in their newly-defined roles, said Jody Spiro, the foundation’s director of education leadership.

It made sense. If supervisors were no longer generally in charge of compliance or were doing less of it, someone else had to pick up those responsibilities.

“It’s a lesson we learned,” Spiro said. “It can’t be done after four years. As you change the principal supervisor position, you automatically have to make changes in your central office.”

All six districts created new positions or tinkered with existing roles to take on some of the non-instructional responsibilities that principal supervisors previously had on their plates. And some districts created support teams (which included representatives from other departments) and liaisons to help both principals and principal supervisors. Districts also worked to streamline communications between central office and schools.

Minneapolis, for example, created the position of a deputy superintendent for operations in 2015, and Baltimore added a building manager to deal with issues related to operations and maintenance.

Did it help?

Supervisors are now spending most of their time—63 percent—in schools or with principals, according to the report.

principal supervisor use of time.JPG

The percentage of principal supervisors who felt that the central office structure interfered with their work fell from 51 percent in 2016 to 36 percent in 2017, the report said.

Still, some principals still did not know who to contact when an issue arose in their schools, and in 2017, only 44 percent said they thought central office was organized to support principals, according to the report. (That was an improvement from 35 percent the previous year.)

Sixty-three percent said they thought improving teaching and learning was an important focus of the central office, though a majority also said they lost time focusing on teaching and learning because of central office requests.

Another notable finding, according to Spiro, was that principals said they trusted their supervisors to be both evaluators and coaches.

Principal supervisors are also now leading professional learning communities. Before the supervisor initiative, meetings with principals were primarily about sharing information, according to the report. Those meetings are now geared toward learning and include things like school walk throughs and professional development for principals in some cases, according to the report.

Districts have also developed training systems to prepare future principal supervisors. Three districts—Cleveland, Broward and Long Beach—developed apprenticeship programs to recruit and train the next crop of principal supervisors. Completing the apprenticeship program, however, is not a requirement for being hired in those districts as a principal supervisor.

In those districts, principal supervisors have become an additional step on the career ladder for educators, Goldring said.

Striking a Balance

But there were also some challenges. Districts are still struggling with finding the right balance between how much time supervisors should spend with principals and how much time they should devote to operations and central office duties. Supervisors in some cases are struggling to distinguish between instructional leadership and high-quality instruction, and differentiating supports for principals based on school needs and context remains a challenge.Supervisor turnover and assignment changes were also problems in some of the districts. Districts also need to develop high-quality principal evaluations, according to the report.

Among the recommendations: Districts should work on creating high-quality training and collaborative time for supervisors. They should also develop a shared definition of instructional leadership. Districts should continue to work on finding and training future principal supervisors, as well as think about how the initiative will continue beyond the grant period.

Goldring also has questions she’d like answered in the future, including whether principal supervisors who were not part of the program will have the same focus and commitment to the initiative and how district leadership changes will affect the work going forward.

Changing the role of the principal supervisor can have a ripple effect in districts, Spiro said. Other districts can use the experience of the participants in the principal supervisor initiative as a guide, she said.

“This initiative all began because we were looking at central office redesign for years. And it’s a really heavy lift. And the notion that we are testing out is, by virtue of changing the principal supervisor position, can that be the catalyst that lead to both changes for schools and changes in central office?”

The answer, she said, is yes.

It also doesn’t take a lot of resources to do so, Goldring said.

“Everyone talks about capacity and will,” she said. “This is more about will.”

You can read the full report, A New Role Emerges for Principal Supervisors: Evidence From Six Districts in the Principal Supervisor Initiative, here.

Images: A New Role Emerges for Principal Supervisors: Evidence From Six Districts in the Principal Supervisor Initiative.