8:15 AM EDT, April 13, 2012
I want to thank The Sun for its coverage of the appointment of the Baltimore County school superintendent and, almost concurrently, the effort on behalf of the legislators to add elected members to the county's school board ("Baltimore County school board OKs Dance as superintendent," April 11, and "Balto. Co. school board bill fails in final hours of Assembly session," April 10).
As a resident of Baltimore County, I am dismayed, disheartened and, frankly, disgusted, that there did not seem to be more public outcry about these two recent, critical and seemingly connected developments in the future of our public schools.
The closed hiring process conducted by the current school board produced a candidate who is under-qualified for the job of superintendent. S. Dallas Dance lacks the professional credentials explicitly spelled out by state law, necessitating the acquisition of a waiver to circumvent the requirement of three years teaching experience so necessary to a full understanding of the breadth of the very position for which he is now hired.
His lack of longevity in any one position in his job history begs the question: What kind of track record could he possibly have in his two-year job stints to prove his success and ability to lead the 26th largest school district in the country?
And yet the Baltimore County Board of Education, comprising all political appointees, made up their minds without any stakeholder input and hired Mr. Dance.
And almost simultaneously down the road in Annapolis, proposed legislation spearheaded by Sen. Bobby Zirkin to provide county taxpayers with the opportunity to have a voice in the operations of its own school system by being able to elect a portion of the school board was adamantly opposed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who wants to maintain complete control of the composition of the school board and caused the demise of the bill in committee.
With 95 percent of school boards in this country and the majority of school boards in Maryland composed of elected members, Baltimore County should also be entitled to a more democratic process in deciding who should govern schools. A hybrid board, such as the one proposed by Senator Zirkin, would have maintained some of the seats for appointees but also allowed for the inclusion of members elected by the citizens of Baltimore County. This would infuse not only new perspectives to the board but also an element of accountability which it so desperately needs.
With the inexperienced Mr. Dance at the helm of county schools, a hybrid board could have brought much-needed transparency to the system at a time when so many are questioning the hiring process. Instead, unfortunately, we get one without the other, causing more reason for skepticism and dire concern.
Elinor Kotzen Spokes, Pikesville
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