Dance: My pledge to Baltimore County

April 12, 2012

In just a few months, I will take the helm of Baltimore County Public Schools, a district with the unshakable belief that all students can learn at the highest levels. For the past 12 years, Superintendent Joe Hairston's vision, passion and drive in leading a team of outstanding individuals have resulted in phenomenal gains in student achievement. I am humbled that the Baltimore County Board of Education has selected me to build on his legacy.

These are challenging but exciting times for public education. Our nation has lost its competitive edge in the world, particularly in the areas of mathematics and science. Access to a rigorous education is not a given as the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to grow. But rather than sit back and indulge in a lot of handwringing, communities across the country are working hard to make improvements and invest in the future of their children. One cannot help but be impressed by the innovation going on in classrooms, the professionalism of educators, and the support and engagement of parents, elected officials and business, civic and faith leaders. And it's not happening better anywhere else than in the state of Maryland.

The Baltimore County Public School district has played an important role in Maryland's ascendancy as a leader in education. County leaders understand the importance of preparing our students to compete not just with their peers across the state and the nation but with students around the globe. If we want the public to continue to invest strongly in education, we need to continue to make smart decisions about how we spend tax dollars, and we must continue to be held accountable for the results we get. We have to ensure that every child who steps into our schools is being prepared for college and a meaningful career in a world where the standards are tougher and the stakes are higher.

The work before us is a collective effort. Teachers understand the power of collaborating with their colleagues, and principals are effective when they lead with the support of their entire school community. As superintendent, I will look to the Board of Education, staff, parents, and the greater community as true partners in this journey. We all have a stake in the future of our young people, and Baltimore County is home to smart, talented and dedicated individuals. I look forward to listening to, learning from, and working with every person who wants to make a difference and who is committed to improving teaching and learning.

Education is my calling, not just a career. I've always known that this would be my life's work, and it has been professionally and personally rewarding. To quote one of my heroes, Teddy Roosevelt, "Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." As your next superintendent, I pledge to the residents of Baltimore County to devote every waking minute to your children and giving them the excellent education they deserve.

S. Dallas Dance, Houston

The writer is the incoming Baltimore County superintendent of schools.

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