BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore County Superintendent Darryl Williams defended his record of guiding the school system and the level of communication after five of the seven members on the county council called for his ouster.

In a letter to the council dated June 11, Williams pointed to an efficiency review cited by the lawmakers and said Baltimore County Public Schools has committed to 89% of the recommended changes, including a reorganization of the central office, a plan to boost morale and $7.7 million in cuts.

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He goes on to say the school system is addressing issues such as teacher shortages, bus driver shortages, and an increase in student suspensions.

“BCPS is grateful for the support of the Council and its investment in our children and staff,” he wrote. “In the spirit of continuous improvement, I remain open to opportunities to share and collaborate with the County Council on how we can work together to improve efficiencies and effectiveness in support of students, staff, and families in Baltimore County Public Schools.”

Five council members, including all three Republican representatives, signed the letter calling for a new direction in the school system three years into Williams’ tenure. He was appointed superintendent of schools for Baltimore County Public Schools on May 21, 2019.

“We recognize that the last two-plus years have posed significant challenges,” Cathy Bevins, Todd Crandell, Wade Kach, David Marks, and Tom Quirk wrote. “We have all been affected by the pandemic and its direct health consequences and the vast interruptions to our normal way of life. Nonetheless, BCPS has been tasked with perhaps the highest and most urgent calling—the care, safety, and education of our children. But instead of rising to the challenge, BCPS leadership has struggled.”

Driver and teacher shortages are a nationwide problem, Williams countered, with Baltimore County ranking behind Prince George’s County and just ahead of Montgomery County in the number of teaching vacancies. During the school year, BCPS’ human resources has conducted 155 recruiting events and worked to bolster relationships with colleges.

He also said there’s “a comprehensive plan that addresses organizational climate, worksite engagement, recognition, and wellness” for current employees.

WJZ spoke to a mother of three students in public schools who asked that we not use her name. She told us some of her children have faced ongoing reliability issues with school bus transportation.

“My middle schooler takes the bus and sometimes she’s on time and sometimes she’s a half-hour late to school. It’s hit or miss,” she told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren.  “I definitely think transportation is a huge issue. We need to be able to have our students go to school on time. …Especially parents who work full time, it’s not fair to expect them to be able to drive their kids when the bus doesn’t show up and the bus is an hour late.”

As for the suspensions, the school system has rolled out a new safety assistant position in 20 secondary schools and plans to add more in the fall.

“Despite a strong emphasis on implementation of social-emotional learning signature practices in all schools in response to pandemic-related trauma, suspension rates increased for all levels during each marking period,” he wrote.

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The assistants, who work with school resource officers and principals, are trained in de-escalation techniques and relationship-building.

In their letter, the lawmakers claimed communication from William’s office “has been infrequent and inconsistent.”

Williams said he’s had 15 meetings with the council or individual members and shared updates on the school system’s response to the Efficiency Report, serious incident reports, notes from the board of education, and other documents.

“BCPS has proactively provided the Council with information about system operations, student and staff achievements, and strategic planning,” he wrote. “The Council’s claims of ‘inconsistent and infrequent’ communication paint an incomplete picture of our partnership.”

One school employee who asked that we not identify her said communication with administrators and the central office is often frustrating. 

“The communication isn’t great,” the employee said. “Communicating with the principal, the vice principal, down to the teachers—something has to give. I don’t know what is true and what is not.”

But parent Alysha Roberts told Hellgren she has no complaints about the superintendent and those at her son’s school.

“I have had no problem,” Roberts said. “I’ve never had a problem. My son has been in county schools for 13 years now and everyone has been great to me.”

The school board met behind closed doors Monday night for a discussion on an undisclosed topic. 

The board has weathered a scandal at the top before when previous superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance spent time behind bars for perjury after failing to report lucrative consulting contracts on financial disclosure forms

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When Dr. Williams was hired three years ago, leaders were looking for a fresh start at the top of one of the state’s largest school systems. “I just thought, this is a great opportunity to still be in Maryland, and then to do some incredible work in leading a school system,” he told WJZ at the time.