Baltimore County School board and community leaders are hustling to name an interim leader for the County’s Public schools by July 1st following Superintendent Dallas Dance’s recent unexpected resignation.
Former Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance. (Courtesy Photo)
Marisol Johnson, vice chair of the Baltimore County School Board, said while the School Board must move quickly to develop an interim arrangement, she did not experience Dance’s resignation as a total surprise. (Johnson is one of three African-American members of Baltimore County’s school board.)
“I knew that there were struggles with the ability to move forward with some of his initiatives, ´Johnson told the AFRO. “There were some roadblocks, recently. After the passing of his grandmother and some time he spent with his son, he was able to make a decision,” she said.
Johnson believes the key to moving forward until an interim is found is the board’s ability to work together while respecting differences. “We all are only one vote and we all have sometimes differing opinions. But as long as we can be respectful of each other’s opinions and what we bring to the table we will be successful in the search for an interim,” Johnson told the Afro.
But for many community leaders, including Baltimore County NAACP President, Anthony Fugett, Dance’s resignation came as a shock. The organization is now focused on ensuring Baltimore County residents of color have a voice in choosing Dance’s successor.
“The NAACP was surprised by the recent actions of the Superintendent. That disappointed me,” Fugett told the AFRO. “The NAACP just recently vigorously supported Dance’s contract renewal,” Fugett said. Dance was in the first year of a second four-year contract with Baltimore County Schools when he resigned April 18.
“My thought is that the board’s strategy is to propose a one-year interim by July 1st,” Fugett said. He said Dance’s initiatives, including recent curriculum reforms, would remain. Dance has received criticism by some in the County for introducing elementary curriculum reforms and a system-wide high school schedule.
Johnson said the School Board has only met once since Dance’s resignation and a process has yet to be developed to name an interim successor for Baltimore County Public Schools. Johnson expounded on qualities that she personally considers important to keep the school system moving forward after Dance’s departure.
“Dr. Dance made great strides in working with the County Council and the County Executive. We need someone who can work with our governing agencies. We need someone who understands the vision,” Jonson said.
“We need someone who shares the principles that Dance’s blueprint laid out. Principles that we have been working on as a board and as a system for the last four years,” Johnson added. “ I have four children in the school system and I personally do not want to see everything we worked for in the past couple years come to a complete halt.”
Some observers expressed hope that the County would select another superintendent who also represented the school system’s diversity. Dance is African American. “The school system in Baltimore County is not the district it was 25 years ago,” said Patricia L. Welch, Dean of the School of Education at Morgan State University. “I don’t know if there has been enough attention paid to the diversifying population,” Welch said, referring to state demographic data outlining a shift in the County’s school-age population from 80% White to 40% White over the last 30 years.
“Baltimore County has the awesome responsibility of addressing all of its students all of the time. We can no longer sit silently and not address the demographic changes in Baltimore County,” Welch added.
Fugett said he expects the NAACP to give input in the selection of the County’s interim superintendent candidate and will petition to make sure the organization’s voice is considered in the selection process for Dance’s permanent successor.
“We’re happy that the next window of opportunity will be involvement in public hearings for the interim superintendent,” Fugett said.
The NAACP is looking ahead to ensure Baltimore County Public Schools puts the needs of its “majority-minority” population first. “Dance’s successor must be someone who has minority achievement as a priority,” Fugett said.