Gansler must step in to put AIM to rest

December 15, 2010

Now that we have reached the one-year anniversary of the infamous AIM experience in Baltimore County Public Schools, it is time to put the entire issue to rest. Several parts of the corpse have already been buried.

Most importantly, the cumbersome system foisted upon teachers last December in an e-mail from then-Assistant Superintendent Barbara Dezmon is now an unhappy memory. The circumstances surrounding that "emerging bulletin" have cast severe doubt on the credibility of Superintendent Joe A. Hairston, whose initial reaction — that he was out of his office at physical therapy and knew nothing about the email — directly contradicts Ms. Dezmon's statement that "top administrators decided" on December 16 to issue the directive (Sun, 12-27-09); it also contradicts BCPS spokesman Charles Herndon's subsequent clarification that Mr. Hairston was aware and supportive of the decision. As The Sun's recent editorial "Questioning AIM" (Dec. 13) concluded, when it comes time to renew Mr. Hairston's contract, this issue should prompt the School Board to "hold him to a higher standard."

It is also a relief to know that Ms. Dezmon is no longer a county employee and in a position to flaunt the influence of her position to intimidate others to do her bidding. Clearly, her self-righteous rant that she was a target because of her race has revealed itself for what it is: a lame attempt to evade accountability. But while her resignation on June 1 opened a window to fresh air, it leaves one more detail to be resolved.

Ms. Dezmon has copyrighted AIM both in her own name and under her corporate identity, Dezmon Educational Strategies LLC. A "limited liability company" is generally perceived as a subsidiary or an arm of a larger corporation, but an entity which does not assume much responsibility. And what was the larger corporation of which Ms. Dezmon was a part? Baltimore County Public Schools, whose curriculum offices were required to provide Ms. Dezmon with instructional objectives and whose classroom teachers wrote the multitudinous behavioral descriptors that are the text of the assessment instrument.

In the "Readers respond" sidebar to the December 13 editorial, the applicable law is explained. "The law is that a company owns all original creations created by employees on company time. In this case, the county automatically owned the program. So saying that the county received something of value — free use of the software — in exchange for assigning the right to Ms. Dezmon is simply not true since the county already owned it and free use of it."

All of which means that the one remaining nail that needs to be driven into this coffin is a legal assurance that Ms. Dezmon cannot profit by so much as one penny from the sale of AIM to any other school system in the country. That hammer is in the hands of Maryland's Attorney General, Douglas F. Gansler.

George W. Nellies, Towson

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