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Superintendent's missteps show why county needs an elected school board [Letter]

Laws and LegislationEthicsJoe A. HairstonMaryland General Assembly

Baltimore County Superintendent of Education Dallas Dance received a job from SUPES Academy after providing that same company with an $857,000 contract with Baltimore County Schools. This action has the appearance of a conflict of interest and violation of the ethics laws ("School board says Dance should have gotten its OK before taking consulting job," Dec. 17).

I have filed a formal request for an opinion by the county Ethics Commission, which could be followed by an ethics complaint. This controversy must not be dismissed as a "distraction" or a "personnel matter."

Mr. Dance receives a salary of $260,000 a year and presides over a school system in turmoil. Baltimore County is in the process of implementing a number of new programs, including the Common Core curriculum, changes in teacher evaluations, redistricting school zones, a new high school schedule and the drafting of a 10-year facilities plan.

With the activity and chaos we have in our school system — to the point where teachers have filed a grievance — Mr. Dance should not have any spare time to devote to another job. The SUPES Academy, which is under investigation in Chicago, was a no-bid contract advanced by Mr. Dance.

The superintendent's decision to drop his job with SUPES is a minor concession. The $857,000 contract he forced onto the shoulders of county taxpayers is a real problem.

Moreover, the agreement is designed to train principals and prospective principals. To my knowledge, Baltimore County has a tradition of in-house training for its principals. Mr. Dance, who graduated from SUPES Academy and is considered a qualified instructor, should have used his skills to train county principals himself and save the taxpayers money.

It never ceases to amaze me how school boards agree to provide Cadillac-level contracts that allow top administrators to seek outside employment when they should be totally dedicated to their own school systems. The board needs to revise the superintendent's contract to keep him from wandering off the farm again.

My confidence in politically appointed school boards disappeared a long time ago. There have been a whole series of incidents dating back to the reign of Joe Hairston and before when the actions taken by the school board have left the public scratching their heads or holding their noses. This failed system needs reform.

I have introduced legislation that will create a hybrid school board that consists of seven elected members — one from each council district — and four at-large members appointed by the county executive.

Governors should not be selecting Baltimore County's educational leaders. The government closest to the people governs best. Baltimore County teachers, parents and children deserve better.

Pat McDonough, Annapolis

The writer, a Republican, represents District 7, Baltimore and Harford counties, in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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Laws and LegislationEthicsJoe A. HairstonMaryland General Assembly
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