As a parent of a student attending a Baltimore County public school, I was very interesting in seeing who would ultimately be selected to succeed outgoing Superintendent Joe Hairston. My deepest desire, which was certainly shared by most other stakeholders of the school system, was that he or she would be replaced by an individual who was open to new ideas, valued dialogue with others and listened to the opinions of citizens at-large. While the academic statistics of the Hairston era have been commendable, his record in the areas noted above could not have been worse.
By most accounts, with the selection of Dr. Dallas Dance to become our new superintendent, effective July 1, 2012, we may very well have found the "anti-Hairston." Unlike Hairston, Dance's career shows the importance he places on building and maintaining positive and productive relationships with others. Those who Dance has worked with in the past say he is "good at listening to other perspectives and incorporating them in his actions," while others have praised "his zeal for instructional improvement."
In contrast to these complimentary words come those from skeptics who harp on the relative youth of Dance. Others insist that the closed selection process utilized by the Baltimore County Board of Education couldn't have possibly ended up finding a top-flight candidate. Candidly, uninformed opinions from those who haven't even met our incoming schools chief, nor knee-jerk criticisms of process should sway the vast majority of Baltimore County residents who are trying to gauge the likelihood of his future success.
When I seek to evaluate the qualifications of any person who I am likely to be working with in the future, the first thing I do is to consult others who have worked with this person in the past. Media accounts asking for opinions regarding Dance have produced uniformly positive feedback. Favorable comments come from both former supervisors of Dance, as well as from current and his former employees and from community stakeholders of school systems he has helped govern. For me, these are far more credible sources than some the usual suspects locally, who don't seem to have anything positive to say about much of anything.
With regard to the selection process, while I am certainly not a fan of the manner in which our present appointed school board chooses to govern, I don't think it is fair to place the blame for this on Dance's shoulders. As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. In this instance, I do believe that while our school board generally is not a model for one that makes good decisions, they did get one right this time.
While our new superintendent definitely has high expectations to fulfill, in the interest of fairness we should all give Dance the chance to live up to his own words: "I will tell you I am very open. I am very transparent. I want to make sure that people are part of the solutions.”