Members of the public told the search firm they wanted a superintendent who was more open to divergent points of view than the previous administration, and Dance said he likes full collaboration.

"I do not surround myself with people who tell me what I want to hear, but people who tell me what they believe," he said.

Teachers should be involved in trying to find solutions to problems, he said, and principals will be given a lot of autonomy, particularly those at schools that excel.

While there will be times when he must make hard decisions, he describes himself as someone who will challenge the staff to come up with solutions.

"I will tell you I am very open. I am very transparent. I want to make sure that people are part of the solutions," he said.

He said he values people's opinions whether they are custodians, bus drivers, teachers, community activists, parents or students.

Baltimore County has recently struggled with overcrowded schools, particularly in the York Road corridor, lack of air conditioning in schools and aging buildings.

"Hiring a young man with so little experience in either teaching or administrative work does not bode well for solving the problems of our large system with its huge infrastructure problems, including overcrowding and climate control," said Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, an outspoken advocate and a parent of a recent graduate of Baltimore County schools.

To parents who are concerned about finding solutions, Dance promises to come up with short- and long-range priorities.

"What people will like is that there will be a plan to get it done," he said, adding that he will be upfront about what can and cannot be accomplished. "We can't continue to have the oldest facilities in Maryland."

Dance talked at length about equity for schools in the system and ensuring that every student is taught a curriculum that goes beyond the basics. He wants more Advanced Placement scholars, he said, and more National Merit scholars.

Whether Dance will be able to execute plans with parents and teachers who are upset that they were left out of the final process of selecting a new superintendent, have never met him and are concerned about his youth is still a question.

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, pointed to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was named superintendent in Chicago, another large system, in his late 30s. "It is more the qualifications and the skill set," he said.

Hite said there are advantages to the energy of youth that as a man of 50 he can appreciate. The job "is around the clock. It is 24/7, and it will wear people down," he said.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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