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News Opinion Readers Respond

Selection of Dance involved extensive public input

Your editorial of April 15 regarding incoming SuperintendentS. Dallas Dance("Assessing Mr. Dance") states that he was selected through a "completely closed process." This statement is consistent with your previous editorials, news articles and letters to the editor, which complain of the alleged closed process by the Board of Education in selecting the next superintendent. If closed is to suggest "without public input," then your statement is erroneous.

Upon the announcement by sitting SuperintendentJoe A. Hairstonlast October of his intention to retire at the end of his term in June 2012, the Board hired the respected search firm of Hazard, Young and Attea to assist with a national search for a new superintendent. In consultation with the search firm, the board developed a process to ensure public participation. This included the development of an online survey, which registered in excess of 1,600 responses, and countless direct interviews with constituents, including, but not limited to, students, parents, administrative staff, teachers and elected leaders.

Input from identified constituent groups (Teachers Association of Baltimore County, League of Women Voters, NAACP, etc.) was also solicited and obtained. The data collected from these sources established the parameters that identified the qualities of the individual that the board would consider for the position, and ultimately hire.

After a national advertising campaign and search, the board developed a list of more than 40 candidates. This list was then reduced to 20; then 7 finalists were selected for personal interviews by the board. Among the candidates were sitting superintendents, individuals currently employed in the field of education, and persons with work and life experience outside of the educational discipline. Candidates came from both across the country and locally. A number of candidates who applied insisted that their respective application remain confidential, as knowledge in their interest in the Baltimore County position would be detrimental to their respective current employment. The board agreed to respect this request for confidentiality for all candidates.

The seven finalists were then personally interviewed by the board, for nearly two hours each. Specific questions during that interview were developed from the input received from the public. After those interviews were completed, the list was reduced to three, and after additional personal interviews and reference/background checks, Mr. Dance was selected. Other than Mr. Dance, the Board has not identified any of the other candidates, out of respect for those individuals, and based upon our pledge of confidentiality.

We believe that Dallas Dance is the right choice to lead the Baltimore County public school system, and we eagerly await his coming to Baltimore County and building upon the legacy created by Mr. Hairston. Maryland law specifically entrusts the selection of a superintendent in every county (and Baltimore City) to the local board of education. Our selection was made free of inappropriate outside influences. As your editorial points out, no one in Maryland knew S. Dallas Dance before he was hired. Our decision was based upon the public input received during the process and the collective judgment of the individual members of the board.

The board makes no apology for the selection or the process utilized. We concur with your opinion that a star is coming to Baltimore County. In our judgment, the board employed a process that ensured an appropriate level of public input and retained the professionalism required of such an endeavor.

Lawrence E. Schmidt, Towson

The writer is president of the Baltimore County Board of Education.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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