Now that the boy wonder former Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent Dallas Dance has pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury, the taxpayers of Baltimore County are left with the question, "How could this have happened?" (“Dallas Dance and the loss of trust,” March 9). The answer can be found in tracing the actions and statements of the Board of Education as reported in The Baltimore Sun.
On March 27, 2012: The board president "was impressed with Dance's poise and maturity.” His lack of experience (he needed a waiver from interim state superintendent to get the job) and his integrity track record were apparently behind the board's decision to keep his selection a closed process. The board failed miserably in its responsibility to hire a competent person for the job.
The board presided over a "rock star" while his ineptness at curriculum development and implementation was glaringly obvious. On Sept. 23, 2013: "the hurried roll out of Common Core without adequate support and materials for teachers" and Mr. Dance's infamous curriculum comment "we are building the plane as we fly it.” Meanwhile, his negligence and his fraudulent emphasis on technology created a debt that has to be paid by the teachers, students and taxpayers of Baltimore County for years to come.
On Oct. 26, 2017: The board turned a blind eye to Mr. Dance's abuse of out-of-state travel. For example, in 2016, "Dance spent more than a third of the school days in 2016 traveling to out-of-state education conferences at a cost of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.” When questioned about this abuse, school board members stated that "his physical location was unimportant" and "they knew where he was.” The problem is they had no idea what he was doing. The board supported Mr. Dance's absentee superintendency to line his own pockets because "the man (Dance) has prominence. The man was in demand.” This failure of oversight by the board should be considered no less than educational malpractice.
On March 9: The board's criteria for measuring the competence and performance of its superintendent were woefully lacking. Referring to Mr. Dance, a board member who served under him stated that people thought "he was cool" and that "he was hip.” She was impressed that “people dressed up as Mr. Dance for Halloween" and that he "kept an iPad in his pocket.” One gets the feeling that the board was living in an alternative universe. However, while board members were swooning over their boy wonder, he was fleecing the school system with "payments from a company he helped win a no-bid contract.” Another board member felt "Dance performed well" because his "most important job" was "to convince the county executive and County Council to come up with the money to fund the system.” Apparently, the job of being an instructional leader and making sure students are learning and achieving at high levels didn't matter much. Perhaps that's why they hired a rookie, let him gallivant around the country away from his job, and had no idea he was making big bucks on the side — all on the county's dime.
Also on March 9: The board was duped. The former school board chairman stated, "I guess he (Dance) had us all fooled.” What an understatement! A fool is not discerning and is easily captivated by all kinds of enticements and deceptions. The board's lack of understanding of the irreversible consequences of Mr. Dance's moral failure and its glaring failure to have a system of checks and balances in place is shocking.
Now back to May 23 of last year: The board unanimously hired one of Mr. Dance's underlings as its interim superintendent after he jumped ship. Her qualifications? "She has stood behind all of Dance's initiatives,” she is "retiring and modest person" and is "a talented person.” Unfortunately, she has trouble filling out disclosure forms by failing to report four years worth of supplementary income from one of the companies that lined Mr. Dance's pockets. The board has apparently accepted the "honest mistake" and "will not do it again" excuses.
Who knows, maybe she carries an iPad in her pocket, too. Any board member who was involved in hiring Mr. Dance or served during his superintendency should immediately resign. The damage done to the students of the Baltimore County Public Schools is reason enough. As a taxpayer, I have at least 147,000 other reasons.
Craig Laferty, Timonium
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