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.

3 Minutes August 21, 2018

Chairman Gilliss, Vice Chair Stewart, Superintendent White, and Members of the Board,

Tonight, you will be asked to approve a strategic, limited reorganization of BCPS executive leadership. The Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees is in full support of this reorganization. There are several reasons for this.

First, this reorganization supports the vision of the superintendent – Literacy and School Culture. The creation of a Division of School Climate and Safety, with dedicated and focused chief level leadership, speaks directly to the degree of importance, and leverage of this division. It addresses concerns regarding student safety voiced by all stakeholders, as it aligns resources for the physical and social emotional needs of our students, creating a more viable conduit to the schoolhouse. It also ensures the effective use of additional staffing given to BCPS by the late County Executive Kamenetz.

Secondly, at the last Board meeting I spoke to you about my enthusiasm for the commitment from System leadership, to ongoing collaboration between and amongst zone leadership. This helps to create much needed consistency and inter-rater reliability around principal growth and evaluation. I said that the most important thing an executive director does is increase the skills of the building principal.

This reorganization allows executive directors to supervise a far more manageable number of principals thereby increasing their ability to coach, supervise, and grow principal effectiveness. The move from 4 Zones to 3 begins to address the concerns CASE has had regarding consistency as well.

Lastly, this reorganization speaks to both of Superintendent White’s foci based on her vision. A good leader has a vision, shares it, lives it, and supports it in any number of ways, but most noticeably, by organizing resources and staff to support the vision, and Ms. White is an excellent instructional leader.

Some may suggest that reorganization should wait until a new superintendent is named. CASE feels however, that we have waited long enough, and frankly we support Ms. White as the next superintendent. We applaud the fact that Ms. White is putting her fingerprints on the System and we encourage her to continue. Because, as Louise Heath Leber says: “There’s always room for improvement – it’s the biggest room in the house.”

Thank you
Tom DeHart
CASE Executive Director

Cellphone Stipends for School Administrators

The BCPS Cell Phone Stipend Workgroup has recently reviewed cellphone stipend guidelines for all principals and assistant principals. The preliminary information below is being shared to make school administrators aware of this review process and that a recommendation for standardized stipends across all schools will be
forthcoming. At this time, the following recommendations are being made by the Cell Phone Stipend Workgroup:

1. All administrators should be able to receive and respond to emergency emails from the office of school safety; all administrators should be available to address other emergent matters in a timely fashion when they are away from their desk/office.

2. All assistant principals and principals should receive the cell phone stipend at the $56 (data) and $53 (phone) rate.

3. Cell phone stipends will continue be charged against the school-based operating budget.

4. Based on the guidelines that all principals and assistant principals should receive a stipend, stipends that are being added/initiated now should be effective July 1, 2018. Current school administrators will receive their stipends retroactive to July. School administrators who are assigned to new positions in August or later will not receive the July retroactive stipend.

Pursuant to these recommendations, principals are asked to take action now to implement cellphone stipends as necessary for themselves and their assistant principal(s).

If you are currently receiving a cellphone stipend that is above the recommended $56 (data) and $53 (phone) rate, you are not being asked to change your stipend amount at this time. However, more information about stipend rates will be communicated as the Cell Phone Stipend Workgroup continues its review.

Tom DeHart
Executive Director, CASE

Recent Board Comments

Chairman Gilliss, Vice Chair Stewart, Superintendent White, and
Members of the Board,

In January of this year I spoke to this Board of the necessity to provide essential professional development to the Community Superintendents and Executive Directors in the 4 System Zones around the shift in supervision of Principals from an outdated compliance mindset to one of coaching and support to improve the principals’ capacity for instructional leadership. I shared then that, sadly, there was great inconsistency within and between the Zones as to how principals were supported and evaluated.

Tonight, I am most pleased to share with you that under the leadership of Superintendent White, COE Billy Burke, and the Community Superintendents, BCPS has committed to changing that paradigm.

For the last few months, a representative workgroup has worked diligently to rework the principal evaluation which is framed by the 10 Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSELs). Through a partnership with CASE, a meaningful and purposeful framework has been developed. This framework however, isn’t worth the paper on which it is printed if not implemented effectively and consistently across the system.

To ensure the fidelity of the implementation of this evaluation system, the leadership staff in all Zones have participated in unpacking the philosophy and strategies in supervising principals as laid out in the PSEL companion document Voluntary Standards for Principal Supervisors. In addition to this initial professional development for all Zone staff, the executive directors will meet regularly over the course of this school year as a professional learning community to share experiences, seek clarification, and learn from one another.

This ongoing collaboration between zone leadership will help create much needed consistency and inter-rater reliability. Amid everything an executive director does, by far the most important is increasing the skills of the building principal. This will be a heavy lift with new learning and mind sets on all sides. I am convinced however that this continuous growth model is an absolute necessary component to improve student achievement.

Thank you
Tom DeHart
CASE Executive Director