Superintendents Renee Foose of Howard County Public Schools and Dallas Dance of Baltimore County Public Schools, both large Maryland school districts, left their posts over the last month.
The Howard County school board agreed to pay nearly $1.65 million in salary and benefits to persuade Ms Foose, 50, to retire, the Baltimore Sun reported in this morning’s edition. The amount exceeds what the school system would have spent if they had continued to pay her during the three remaining years on her contract.
A power struggle between Ms Foose and the school board, some of whom were recently elected on a sort of anti-Foose agenda, led all the way to a lawsuit, in which Ms Foose sued her own school board over newly adopted measures that expanded the authority of the board to act without her authorization, a public display of in-fighting that is more typical of smaller school systems than of those as large as Howard County, which serves close to 55,000 students.
Former West Virginia state schools superintendent Michael Martirano, a University of Maryland graduate, was immediately brought in to serve as superintendent for Howard County Public Schools on an interim basis. Mr Martirano’s children attended schools in Howard County, where he, more than a decade ago, served as the supervisor of the district’s elementary schools before accepting a position as superintendent for St Mary’s County Public Schools.
In Baltimore County, Superintendent Dallas Dance announced his resignation on April 18 without giving a clear reason, the Baltimore Business Journal reported. The resignation is effective June 30. The district that serves about 111,000 students had given him a new contract less than a year ago, but he certainly hasn’t been a stranger to either lofty praise or sharp criticism from school advocates and others in the well-populated county.
“The last five years serving as superintendent of Team BCPS have been the best years of my professional life,” the journal quoted him as saying in a statement. “I have led this organization from my heart believing that we could move mountains, and while not literally, we have begun tackling some large complex issues, which will take us time. … However, I believe our county and region will be better because of our strategic efforts to provide an equitable educational experience for all of our children.”
During his tenure, which exceeds that of typical large-scale system superintendents by a little more than a year, criticism came from the school board itself. In May 2014, the board even concluded that Mr Dance had violated certain ethics policies by working for an outside company without telling the board. He drew the sharpest criticism from the public, based on page views on this blog, for a system-wide change to the high school schedules a few years ago, forcing schools to adopt either an eight-period day or an A/B block schedule and eliminating the semesterized block schedules that were in place at several high schools.
But the school system’s graduation rate rose every year with him at the helm. Last year, it was about 89 percent—the first time it was the same for black students as for white students. In addition, 1-to-1 technology initiatives in many of the district’s 162 schools brought easy internet access and technology to students who didn’t have those opportunities before he came.
The county is in the process of searching for a replacement and can be expected to name someone shortly.