The Talk: Hairston defends conduct on AIM inquiry

November 01, 2010

We're beginning a new daily opinion roundup featuring highlights of what people in Baltimore are talking about. Kicking off this inaugural edition, we have Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's defense of his refusal to meet with the attorney general's office to discuss the ethics of the AIM program, a grading system developed by a former top aide.

Mr. Hairston says

"The issue posed by a special interest group and several state legislators representing Baltimore County raised the possibility of a conflict of interest regarding a school administrator's right to copyright Articulated Instruction Module (AIM), a learning management system that she had created on her own initiative and had allowed Baltimore County Public Schools to use. I encouraged the administrator, who has since retired, to seek legal counsel because Baltimore County Public Schools did not have intellectual property rights as the owner of the program. The Ethics Review Panel determined that there was no conflict of interest in the process.

"This year, legislators asked the Attorney General to investigate whether the school system's use of AIM was ethical and whether a meeting of an AIM work group violated the Open Meetings Act when the head of Baltimore County's teachers union was refused impromptu entry. The findings of the Attorney General stated that there were no violations. Because I rightly followed legal processes, no legal conflict of interest existed."

Read his full letter here.

Reader George W. Neilles of Towson, a former teacher, disagrees. He writes

"For sure, there is plenty of guilt to spread around for the AIM fiasco. A good place to start is by someone going to Greenwood and saying, 'Joe, the buck stops on your desk!'"

The Sun took Mr. Hairston to task for his refusal to meet with the AG's office, saying it suggests he believes he's not accountable to anyone. The editorial read:

"The school board has failed to force Mr. Hairston to account publicly for his decisions, and if it won't, the elected officials who hold the district's purse strings need to make sure he does."

Commenters on baltimoresun.com are overwhelmingly not on Mr. Hairston's side. TonySchramm writes "So, Dr. Hairston, if a student is brought to the principal's for questioning regarding an incident at school that it appears that student had at least knowledge of, and maybe involvement in, that student can refuse to answer any questions about it, and not receive any discipline?"

SW Teacher writes: "The children of this county will pay dearly for indulging the self-centered and opportunistic Dezmon-Hairston duet."

And a parent writes: "I never really gave it much thought before this year, but, it seems that it will be necessary to have an elected school board so that the citizens of Baltimore County have some input into their system. A job of the board is to evaluate the superintendent...anything more than an F will certainly prove their lack of ability to do the right thing by the children of BCPS. Start a search and get the system on the right track!"

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