Legislator Targets Tech Perks in Baltimore County District

Legislator Targets Tech Perks in Baltimore County District

In response to questions about the audit request and potential conflict-of-interest issues regarding tech vendors, Mychael Dickerson, a school district spokesman, said the district had “answered all the questions we intend to answer on this matter.”

This past spring, the district’s superintendent resigned without citing a reason. In an email to reporters last week, Verletta White, the district’s interim superintendent, wrote: “I do not believe there are any conflicts of interest” related to the district’s tech initiative.

The push for an examination comes as some parents, ethicists and legal experts are calling for greater transparency in school-vendor relationships. “Anything that involves trips to fancy hotels should be looked at pretty closely by school boards,” said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School, “and they should decide whether the ultimate users — kids — are getting the right products.”

Senator Brochin said he was concerned about Baltimore County’s ties to a firm called the Education Research and Development Institute or ERDI. Among other services provided by ERDI, it charges a company $13,000 to facilitate one three-hour meeting between corporate representatives and five superintendents or other school officials to discuss products, according to an ERDI membership rate card. ERDI has in the past paid superintendents $2,000 per conference and covered their travel to conferences held at hotels like the Four Seasons in Baltimore.

Baltimore County’s previous superintendent received payments last year as an adviser to a company that owned ERDI, according to his district financial disclosure. The Times last week reported that Ms. White, the interim superintendent, had been involved with ERDI events since 2013, where she provided guidance to ed-tech companies. On Wednesday, The Baltimore Sun reported that Ms. White had been paid about $3,000 a year by ERDI in that time.

The district declined to provide The Times with a list of the companies Ms. White met with at ERDI.

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