Houston Official Tapped as New Baltimore County Superintendent

S. Dallas Dance will take the reins of Baltimore County schools on July 1.

(UPDATE, 4:33 p.m.)—The Baltimore County Board of Education is set to tap a Houston school official as its next superintendent.

S. Dallas Dance will take office on July 1, succeeding Joseph A. Hairston, who has served as superintendent since 2000 and  in October 2011.

“I am thrilled, honored, and humbled to be joining such an outstanding school system," Dance said in a statement released by the school system. "I intend to work tirelessly to reach out and collaborate with everyone who wants to make Baltimore County schools an even better place for students.”

Since 2010, Dance, 30, has been chief middle schools officer in the Houston school system, the seventh-largest in the country.

"He was just very impressive," said Lawrence E. Schmidt, president of the . "He's just a special talent."

Dance will likely be paid about $250,000 per year, Schmidt said, although negotiations have not yet begun on his contract.

The Baltimore Sun first reported Dance's selection early Tuesday.

Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said she had not yet spoken with Dance, but did see him Monday at a town hall in Howard County.

"He seemed very personable and obviously he knows his stuff," Beytin said. "And the fact that two different (searches) found him to be a top-notch candidate speaks well for him."

The county schools press release announcing Dance's appointment calls him a "steady and driven leader with outstanding communication, problem solving, and human relations skills."

"Dr. Dance is an unflappable professional who is respected for his political acumen, his talent for building and leading high performing teams, and for his ability to engage staff, students, and community members," the press release states.

The press release credits Dance with his role in raising Houston's graduation rate, lowering the dropout rate, test score gains, and forging a partnership with Harvard University to transform 20 under-performing schools.

Dance was traveling home to Houston on Tuesday afternoon, a school system spokesman said, and was not available for comment. 

When officials reached Dance in his hotel room around 11 p.m. on Monday, "he was thrilled," Schmidt said.

The board will hold an open vote at a later date, and state officials must still approve Dance's hiring.

There was some concern from board members about a state law that requires superintendents to have three years of teaching experience. Dance spent just over two years as a teacher in Henrico County, Virginia before he was promoted, but continued to teach as an adjunct professor in colleges for several years.

According to Schmidt, after the board's second interview with Dance, county school officials asked state education officials if Dance would be acceptable under those rules. State officials said Monday that he would be, Schmidt said.

Some county residents have questioned Dance's breadth of experience and asked whether a 30-year-old is ready to run the third largest school system in Maryland. But the proof is in Dance's quick rise, Schmidt said.

"If you look at his resume, his ascent through progress has just been spectacular," Schmidt said, adding that the board contacted people who worked with him and above him in Texas and Virginia and all gave glowing reviews.

Schmidt pointed to figures like Kurt Schmoke (elected as Baltimore's state's attorney at 32) and Brandon Tartikoff (named president of NBC's entertainment division in 1981 at age 31) as proof that age may just be a number.

"I think Mark Zuckerberg's doing OK," Schmidt said, referring to the 27-year-old Facebook founder.

In an Explore Howard County feature last week, officials and critics in both states spoke highly of the young administrator.

Before working in Houston, Dance served in Virginia school systems. He started as a high school English teacher in Henrico County and rose the ranks from assistant principal to principal to district administrative roles in Chesterfield County and Louisa County schools. Dance also taught as an adjunct professor at Averett University, the University of Houston, the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Read his bio on the Houston school district's website.

Dance is unmarried and the father of a two-year-old son named Myles.

Dance appeared at the town hall meeting in Howard County alongside Renee Foose, deputy superintendent in Baltimore County under Hairston. that the Howard County board on Tuesday selected Foose for the job.

JP March 27, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Councilman Marks: I'm glad you are comfortable with this selection. As the parent of two school-aged children, I am not. Two years' experience as a teacher does not qualify someone to run a school system as large as ours. It just doesn't. No matter how "gifted" this candidate might seem, he cannot possibly have the school and life experience necessary to understand the complex issues facing Baltimore County. As parents, we've had our issues with young teachers, fresh out of school, who are book smart, but lack the depth of experience to handle tough educational challenges. Now we are being asked to accept a superintendent with the same level of inexperience? Baltimore County is in desperate need of an educational visionary, someone who can see beyond what's been done before and advocate for something better. Our schools are overcrowded, our school buildings are literally falling apart, and our curriculum has grown so rigid, students are not getting the education that we ourselves had. The school board, and BCPS, have not done their jobs in advocating for our children. With this selection, they appear to have failed us again.
Media Maven March 27, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Had the news media done its homework Joe Hariston never would have taken office in the first place. A little due diligence goes a long way and it wouldn't have taken long to find out about the shenanigans Hairston was up to in the Atlanta suburbs. He never should have taken office in Baltimore County nor is Dr. Dance qualified. Dr. Dance doesn't even meet the State of Maryland statutory requirement and has faced a great deal of criticism for his family values, work ethic, character, lack of experience among much more. There are plenty of better-suited candidates for the job. Perhaps, we should be asking, how much does race play into this? Are people afraid to write negative stories about Dance and Hairston because the journalists would be accused of being racist? It’s time the news media got some kahonies and did a little digging.
JDStuts March 27, 2012 at 08:09 PM
If anything the school board probably just sealed the deal for an elected or hybird school board. You can't operate in a vacuum and say "trust us." Plus Schmidt can't even form a decent comparison. Zuckerberg is an entrepreneur, not a taxpayer funded decision maker. Tartikoff programmed entertainment to sell advertising for a corporation with three other competitors. Schmoke defeated Swisher after the latter defeated the first elected black state's attorney in the previous election. This p.r. from the board is smelling more and more desperate. With all the problems they have with parents regarding their management philosophy one would think they have been a little more self aware of openness and collaboration than top down hierarchy. What a mess.
Tim March 27, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I love how everyone knows so much better then those actually tasked with researching these candidates. This is like me telling my plumber that he's fixing my sink wrong. The age comment from Glimp is especially telling. Oh no, he's only 30! How could he possibly be qualified? Bitter old people. Did it occur to any of you folks that maybe, just maybe, he got to the point where he's interviewing for this job because he's a shooting star in the educational field? Not some antiquated, myopic curmudgeon like the one we just got rid of. VCU's graduate education program - like quite honestly MANY of VCU's programs - is quality. Ranked in the top 10% overall by US News and World Report. Virginia schools consistently places in the top 5 year in and out - just like Maryland Mr. Dance began his career at one of the better educational counties in Virginia - Henrico County. The cherry on the top is Media Maven breaking out the race card again. People wonder why our society is fractured. It's not the Caucasians either, we see the other side - Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, etc putting just as much gasoline on the fire as anyone else. It's pathetic and narrow minded. All of it. Look, I'm all for controlled/partial elections of positions like this, and I'm all for having folks assess his performance after a few years...however this whole thread is exactly why clueless people don't make the important decisions. Get off of this guy already. It's sad
kris March 27, 2012 at 08:46 PM
The Sun ran a front-page story about Hairston's problems at his previous job -- before the vote to hire him -- and they hired him anyway.
JDStuts March 27, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Honest question - have you read his "Virginia School Superintendents' Perceptions Regarding Their Superintendent Preparation Program?" It is only 162 pages and available from Google books but any university library should be able to access it for you quicker. What from that demonstrates he is a the rising star in the pedology field? To your point - why are clueless people making this important decision?
Buzz Beeler March 27, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Pros and cons on both sides, but the bottom line will in the stats and that is where it's at. Ultimately to early to judge. If he is a success the school board is a winner. If he is not a success, well, we start over again. Time and numbers will tell the story.
kindman March 27, 2012 at 09:15 PM
As a educator and as someone with a brain, I know that you don't accomplish any significant change and gains in one to two years. The gentlemen speaks well interviews well and that is why he is where he is. All his accolades can be attributed to those he stepped on along the way and left in the dust while he took the credit. With age comes wisdom, especially when it comes to education. As a thirty something old bcps employee I would like a leader that had the experience and knowledge to lead me. It is hard to respect a thirty year old principal, let alone a superintendent. I hope the county council questions this hire before it is finalized.
kindman March 27, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Was that necessary? Ignorant rants and racial stereotypes don't help anyone.
Tim March 27, 2012 at 09:39 PM
JD: I'm not well read on the guy, primarily because it's not my job to be so. If it were, I would be. If I did take the time to read this document, I wouldn't be adequately prepared to make a macro-view decision on his capabilities based on it. The individuals who are paid to make this decision, and given the funding to do so, have made their decision. They are far better equipped then you or I to do so - perhaps not through their own personal experience, but they sure had the funding available to do the due dilligence required. Something we just don't have. I'm not saying the guy's going to walk on water. I am all for making him accountable and not assured employment for a decade. I just find the blanket criticism based on irrelelvant factors (age, race, or an hour of internet research) tragically ignorant. Buzz below (5:06) gets across my sentiments on this hire. A lot of work was done to pick this candidate, with far more funding and, as such, knowledge, then any of us.
Tim March 27, 2012 at 09:40 PM
JDStuts March 27, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Bryan just broke that the decision was based on his ability to deal with elected boards. Looks like what most of us were arguing the hire wasn't based on his stellar vision and ability but politics. If there were any leaders this candidate's consideration would be stopped right here instead of floating an expensive trial period. This is like giving your life savings to a freshly minted Series 7 grad based on the opinion of a Lehman Brothers exec.
JDStuts March 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM
How is this crap still posted.
JDStuts March 27, 2012 at 10:59 PM
It's the poison pill strategy - take on a purposefully weak asset to diminish the rationale of the advocated alternative. You want an elected board? Here's is the weak ineffective leader you have to deal with and the resultant drop off. Want to remain the current the standard or improve? Scrap the elected board idea and stick with the status quo.
Karen March 28, 2012 at 01:51 AM
And in the meantime, our children suffer. That is unacceptable to this parent.
Scott Sewell March 28, 2012 at 11:44 AM
If a community organizer with less than 2 years experience as a U. S. senator can be the POTUS, then a 2 year teacher is "highly qualified" to be superintendent of the BCPS! Just saying.......
Tim March 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Oh, right. I forgot that this position requires no communication or politicking skills at all. Silly me. I'm a network engineer and I've got to have good communication skills to talk to all sorts of people. It's one of my strong suits, actually (the ability to talk in non-technical terms to the average user)
Tim March 28, 2012 at 01:21 PM
George W. was governor of Texas. See how well that worked out for our country...
Al Carlson March 28, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Have you ever been to Houston?
Emily Kimball March 28, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Columnist Jeff Smith explains why he believes Baltimore County is ready for an elected school board on Perry Hall Patch: OPINION: Time to Pass an Elected School Board Bill - http://patch.com/A-rYpC
mcgillicuddy March 29, 2012 at 01:30 AM
"... Dance has only two years' teaching experience, which required the Baltimore County school board to seek a waiver from interim state Superintendent Bernard Sadusky before hiring him; the state requires three." It seems weird that the State Superintendent has the power to change state law at will.
Dr. Debra A. Feemster March 29, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I had the pleasure of participating in a Superintendent's Academy with Dr. Dance for a few months last year. I was able to predict that he was going to become a Superintendent by July 1, 2012. I was right! I have a very strong background in education---teacher, elementary, middle and high school principal and District Administrator. Your District should be proud of the keen decision-making skills of the selection committee members in your community. Congratulations Dr. Dance---Dr. Debra Feemster
deborah April 10, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Congratulations and Best wishes to Dr. Dance. He seems very much qualified for the position and up to the many challenges. I believe young people are the future and they sometimes bring very fresh, new, innovative ideas. God Bless him for wanting to undertake such a large school system.
deborah April 10, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Power hungry is a very interesting synopsis. If it means getting the work that needs to be done, done by all means we all should be power hungry. What a silly thing to say. It's comments like this that make bad school systems continue to be bad school systems. The education of young minds are all of our responsibilities and I say go for it. Who better to deal with young people than a young person with some old school back up.
deborah April 10, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Thank you! His age does give a more likelihood of longevity to envision and accomplish some long-term change.
deborah April 10, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I figure that this entire blog is based upon race. This country and it's race relations is about as bad as its ever been. I am also very sure if it was thought that black people could be put back in chains and sent to the cotton fields that would be done. You talk about afraid,the behavior based on race in this country is disgraceful, outrageous, embarrassing and down right wrong. The way our President of the United States is treated totally based on race is outrageous and its a sad day to be African American in this country. When a young 17 year old can be gunned down for just being black, when young black men are pulled over just for being black, when I am followed in a department store just for being black its a very sad day.
deborah April 10, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Jesse Jackson is mostly boosted by white people, the black community is well aware of his past actions and jump on the bandwagon behavior. He is not leading us, he is but a very, very small piece we cannot get rid of. As for Farrakhan he speaks a lot of truth in my opinion when you pair it with some of the comments on this blog. One thing about Farrakhan he's not hiding what he is, can most of the people on this blog say the same thing. When he denounces Caucasians he denounces them he doesn't hid it behind "he's only 30 years old with no more than 2 years of teaching experience"
deborah April 10, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Very refreshing!
Janet Mercer April 10, 2012 at 06:59 PM
You have got to be kidding me. No college teacher prep classes and only 2 years in the classroom? Completely unqualified.
Emily Kimball December 22, 2012 at 05:57 AM
A comment from Colleen Ruk has been deleted for violating the site's terms od use regarding profanity - http://towson.patch.com/terms


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