Meet Dallas Dance

New Baltimore County Superintendent Dallas Dance will be the guest at the next Sun Newsmaker Forum this Thursday, when he will answer questions from the public about his plans for the school system and the decisions he has already made.

Mr. Dance's appointment caused a stir in Baltimore County; he is just 31 years old, has never been a superintendent before and has no experience in Maryland schools. The state had to provide the county a waiver to hire him because he lacks the three years of classroom teaching Maryland law requires. He came to Baltimore County at a time of significant frustration among parents and teachers at what they justifiably called an unresponsive administration under his predecessor, Joe Hairston. And the only time he had appeared before Maryland parents prior to his hiring was when he was vetted this spring as a finalist for the Howard County superintendency.

Things didn't get much easier for him when he arrived in Towson this summer. He was immediately confronted with the backlash over the school board's decision to build an elementary school in Mays Chapel — a move he supports — and his first day of school was consumed by the tragedy of a shooting at Perry Hall High School that left one student in critical condition and another facing 29 charges, including attempted murder.

Mr. Dance exudes confidence and poise, and he will need both as he deals with chronic complaints about county school facilities and the challenges of implementing a new curriculum and teacher evaluation system. He says communication with the community is a top priority and has said he will reach out to disaffected students and to parents who believe the public schools don't have enough to offer their children. But he has been wisely deliberate about announcing any sweeping policy changes until after he has had more time on the ground in Maryland.

With this forum, we hope to give parents, students, teachers and other members of the community the chance to ask questions and size up Mr. Dance for themselves. The event will take place in the newly renovated Carver Center auditorium, 938 York Road in Towson, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13. The forum is free to the public. For more information, call 410-332-6431. Questions for Mr. Dance my be submitted in advance to Please include "Newsmaker Forum" in the subject line.

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