Superintendent Dance: Limited Experience Won't Hurt My Tenure
S. Dallas Dance, 31, started his new role as Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent on July 1.
While some people have concerns about S. Dallas Dance's credentials, the new Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent says his skills set is what matters.
"If you look at my resume—clearly you can see that any positions I had, I was asked to apply for them," Dance said. "As a matter of fact, in many cases, I didn't even apply, I was promoted to them."
Dance, 31, took over the helm of the school system on July 1 from outgoing superintendent Joe Hairston, who served in the role for 12 years. Dance was previously chief of middle schools in the Houston, TX school system, and has held administrative and teaching positions in Virginia.
Speaking to his ability, Dance told Patch that he was offered superintendent positions in New York, Texas and North Carolina. He said he chose Baltimore County because of its diversity, the community's support of kids and stable school leadership.
"I'm not interested in being superintendent around the country," Dance said. "It's my hope and passion that I'm able to see a group of students actually matriculate through this system and grow under my leadership."
Dance added that he had asked for a long-term contract but Maryland limits terms to 4 years.
Still, not everyone is convinced that Dance is the right person for the job.
In a blog post on Patch, Ed Veit, former president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, called Dance a "neophyte educator." Similarly, Patch user Joan Wood commented on a previous Patch article about the incoming superintendent "Too bad they could not find a qualified person from Maryland!"
A Challenging School System
In his new role, Dance is tackling the 26th largest school system in the country, which has a budget of $1.4 billion. Among the challenges facing the new superintendent include major infrastructure issues at school buildings, the elimination of nearly 200 teacher positions in 2011 and the debate over an appointed versus hybrid school board.
"Whether his lack of experience affects his administration remains to be unseen," said Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, a schools advocate. "He has a very difficult road ahead of him. This is a system that would be challenging for anyone."
Additionally, toward the end of his administration, Hairston implied that his critics may have been racially motivated. Dance, who is also African-American, said he isn't worried about racial issues.
"I have not seen that," he said. "Me personally, I have not felt that from any stakeholder group or any member of the community that I've come in contact with."
At a Monday evening media roundtable, Dance cited working to build a better curriculum, professional development, communications inside and outside the school system and "Blueprint 2.0" as his main focuses for the upcoming school year. Hairston's Blueprint for Progress served as a framework for goals and strategies in the school system. With his "2.0" version, Dance said he hopes to outline a 5-year plan that will draw from the best of the original and change what doesn't work.
"I am hopeful that he's making communication key," said Leslie Weber, another schools advocate. "It was something that was lacking in the past."
Dance—acknowledging his limited experience with the Baltimore County Public Schools system—said he plans to spend a good deal of time meeting with the community and "listening."
"I think folks will always have their initial concerns anyway—that's with any leadership position, even the most experienced people," he said.
Do you have an opinion of the new superintendent? Tell us in the comments.