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County school board bumps up Dance's benefits

SchoolsHigh SchoolsElementary SchoolsJoe A. Hairston

When the Baltimore County school board voted Tuesday on a contract that includes a raise for Superintendent Dallas Dance, they talked about a $5,000 salary increase. They didn't mention in public other benefits that will bump up his compensation by another $22,000.

While one board member, Michael Collins, wanted to discuss the other benefits during the meeting Tuesday night, school board President David Uhlfelder said at the time that no other details would be publicly released until the contract was signed by both parties.

Over the following days, in response to questions from The Baltimore Sun, Collins and Uhlfelder disclosed the other benefits. Those include an $18,200 reimbursement for Dance's contribution into the Maryland state retirement system and a larger payout for unused vacation days.

"The county has one of the outstanding school systems in the country. And why? Because of Dallas Dance," Uhlfelder said in an interview.

But in the days after the public meeting, criticism has emerged.

"I don't understand why we are focused in the second year of a contract to giving more money and adding more benefits when there are so many things that are more important," said state Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County legislator.

He said the focus should be on reducing overcrowding in schools, reversing an unpopular decision by Dance to change high school schedules, and ensuring the new Common Core curriculum is well developed.

Yara Cheikh, a parent activist, said Dance "has proven to be a dynamic communicator and started bold new initiatives" but questioned whether it was appropriate that he receive a pay raise when elementary school budgets were cut in the 2013-2014 school year.

Dance, 33, just completed the second year of a four-year contract. His annual salary, not including benefits, is $265,000 under the new contract. While he is one of the better-paid superintendents in the state, he makes less than his predecessor, Joe Hairston, who earned more than $300,000 after 12 years on the job. The new chief executive officer for Baltimore City schools, Gregory Thornton, earns $290,000 a year.

Dance declined to discuss the changes to the contract until it has been signed but said he looked forward to continuing the positive relationship he has with the board.

Teachers union president Abby Beytin called Dance's pay raise "disheartening" when county teachers, who earn substantially less than peers in surrounding jurisdictions, have not received a cost-of-living increase for several years. Teachers will get a 3 percent bonus this year and a 5 percent cost-of-living increase in fall 2015.

Collins, who voted against the retirement reimbursement, said he believes the changes go against language in the contract that states the board would not award Dance annual salary increases greater than those granted to teachers, barring any unusual circumstances. Collins said the retirement contribution reimbursement should be counted as salary because it will be taxable income.

"I believe we are violating the spirit if not the actual language of the contract," said Collins.

The majority of the board disagreed with Collins, according to Uhlfelder.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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SchoolsHigh SchoolsElementary SchoolsJoe A. Hairston
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