Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance resigned unexpectedly Tuesday, leaving the county school board scrambling for a replacement. Dance said in a statement it was time for him to "transition to another chapter of my career."
He said his five years leading the county school system have been the best years of his professional life. But he gave no reason for why he is resigning just a year after he re-upped for a second four year term. And a school spokesman said Dance does not have another job.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Dance told him he is leaving because of family issues.
“I feel this is a big loss for Baltimore County,” the executive said. “I appreciate that he has to make his decisions that he’s comfortable with.”
The news caught Kamenetz by surprise. He got the word just before a photo shoot outside the county courthouse.
Kamenetz ticked off Dance’s accomplishments.
“Record spending for school construction, building 16 new schools,” he said. “Twelve additions, seven major renovations, modernizing our schools, introducing wifi technology.”
But Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO), gave Dance mixed reviews. He was “a good superintendent and a not so good superintendent,” she said.
Beytin said she never doubted that Dance had a vision, cared about the school system, and that his heart was in the right place. But, she said, Dance was shaky when it came to implementing new programs. She pointed to the rollout of a controversial new homework and grading policy this year for the county schools as exhibit A.
In the rush to get it done, she said, “we ended up putting it out before it was ready for prime time.”
Yara Cheikh, a long time school advocate with four children in the county schools, credited Dance and Kamenetz with spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build and renovate schools throughout the county.
“The conversation now continues,” she said. “How do we move forward with our aging infrastructure, the schools that haven’t been addressed?” The problem, she says, is the conversation will happen with a new superintendent and next year a new school board, when the county switches to a partially elected board. "So, together as a county, we're going to have to really support our children and our families," Cheikh said.
Baltimore County Council Chairman Tom Quirk said Dance was instrumental in the building of new schools and renovations throughout his southwest county district, which includes Catonsville and Lansdowne.
“There is always going to be concerns or questions raised,” Quirk said. “It’s a big school system. But I think the superintendent and the school board have done a very commendable job, especially in my district.”
Dance got in trouble early on when an ethics panel determined he had violated rules by consulting for a company doing business with the school system.
He was at the center of another controversy last November after he re-tweeted a call for educators to be sensitive to minority students and others who might be stressed by Donald Trump’s election as president.
Board member Ann Miller called for his resignation, but 38 parents of county school students signed an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun arguing that Dance should stay and Miller should go.
It’s expected the school board will name an interim superintendent while a nationwide search begins. Beytin said while no stone should be left unturned, the school board should not rule out an in-house candidate because “there aren’t a whole lot of superintendent candidates of this caliber.”
Dance’s last day in June 30.
Education reporting on WYPR is supported in part by the Sylvan-Laureate Foundation.