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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 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 , 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 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 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 , the in 2011 and the debate over an

"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 . 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."

Dance's Vision

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.

JDStuts July 03, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Ugh, what a mistake. From the search firm, to the closed door interviews, to the board's decision this whole thing has been mishandled. At least Dance has experience fleeing one position for another. Looks like he'll need it here.
Tim July 03, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Oh look, JDStuts is still bitter.
JDStuts July 03, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Shows how little you know. From all this heat I am more salty tasting than bitter.
Bp July 03, 2012 at 08:10 PM
All was good until he pulls the RACE card on the first time he is challenged..... Could be the next obama!
FIFA July 03, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Bp, it looks like you had a spill. He did not pull a race card, Hairston said it. Do a re-read and retract.
Bp July 03, 2012 at 09:09 PM
It is the area (Balto)... whites are afraid to step ove rthe line and the blacks just get to readjust the line.... Can't ex[pect much more
FIFA July 03, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Wearing your hood today?
DS July 04, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Give the man a chance - you never know
kindman July 04, 2012 at 02:33 AM
I got the opportunity to meet and listen to Dr. Dance the past two days. I think Larry Schmidt and the rest of the bard did an outstanding job in hiring this man. I was extremely skeptical of his age and experience at first, but I assure you that as you know first impressions go a long way. Either he is extremely good at fooling folks to get to where he is, or we just got a hell of a new superintendent. I say the latter is the case and am excited what Team BCPS will be able to accomplish under his leadership. There are extremely tough challenges ahead of us and I am confident we will be successful in facing those challenges under his leadership. I encourage all who send there children to a BCPS to attend the town hall meetings upcoming this fall. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Welcome aboard Dr. Dance!
Tim July 04, 2012 at 03:32 AM
He's great at fooling everyone. Just ask JDStuts, resident hiring expert when it comes to public school Superintendents!
JD1 July 04, 2012 at 03:34 AM
I am hoping for the best - unfortunately there are some folks in leadership positions that are absolutely pathetic. Fortunately, many were protected by Hairston and saw the writing on the wall and retired or left the system. There are a whole cadre of principals that were promoted over the past five years and definitely need to go. We'll see how he can navigate the politics - wonder if Dr.Dezmon has paid him a visit yet? As for racially motivated critics of Hairston - what a fool. Can't believe he played that one. He's lucky he managed to get away with some of his under handed dealings - a white male would have been called out years ago. I really hope Dr. Dance has the integrity and skill set to find some motivated talent from within the system and community that can help move the system forward.
kindman July 04, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Clean up has already occurred andit was only day 2 on the job. Head of HR and head of communications were asked to hit the road. This is an extremely good sign and more are expected. Thanks again Dance.
JD1 July 04, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Good to hear! Would love to see him clean house.
Pez July 04, 2012 at 08:17 PM
It will be interesting to see if vocational programs are brought back to county schools or will the mantra still be that every student is a college student?
Shell9 July 05, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I hope that he puts more effort into Special Education. Hairston was and is all about himself. I seriously don;t know why it took this long to get rid of him.
PatchFriend July 05, 2012 at 02:57 AM
I am very glad my kids will be out of this system soon. Bless his heart, but a 30 year old man knows nothing.
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT July 05, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Baltimore County did hire him. Willing to give him a chance. I know at 31 no way was I ready in my profession to have the responsibility he has. Even at 41, not sure. Let's see what happens, but could he be angling for a job in the Obama administration? Not a joke, but maybe this is why BMORE is attractive. And, if he he is a reasonable person, he will look good compared to the prior Super.
JD1 July 05, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Just got word from a colleague at Greenwood today that the system gave him a $65000 vehicle. That would pay for a new teacher. Where the hell are the board's priorities - they do a great job throwing around our tax dollars. Good luck Shell9. - special Ed is a giant mess.
Chris July 05, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Welcome, Dr. Dance! Bring your new ideas to Dundalk. This area needs to be part of something bold and innovative.
anita bass July 06, 2012 at 08:38 PM
my question is why was there no public involvement, not a good way to start.
Dan July 07, 2012 at 12:06 PM
I am hoping Dr. Dance's intellect (even his critics in Houston admit he's brilliant) will outweigh is age/experience and win the day; as a parent of two in BCPS, I have a vested interest. I am hoping for the best and will enter into this with a positive attitude. What he has shown so far is willingness to clean house and shake things up a bit - attributes necessary for cleaning the Augean Stables. If what I've heard is true about Dr. Dance moving the elementary school at Mays Chapel to where the kids live and the infrastructure is (Dulaney Springs) then he is both ethical and willing to buck the entrenched, developer-driven interests. I'll wait and see, but am optimistic.

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