Resigned BCPS Superintendent Dallas Dance Takes Consulting Jobs
By Joanne C. Simpson
Dallas Dance could be coming to a school district near you. For a visit anyway. Dance’s new role after leaving his $287,000 annual superintendent job at Baltimore County Public Schools after June 30–at least two national consulting gigs.
Both companies, MGT Consulting Group and the Center for Digital Education, have had at least tangential relationships with numerous BCPS vendors, the superintendent, or the school system itself.
Recently, Dance announced a full-time position with MGT Consulting Group, a large Florida-based educational consulting company with offices nationwide.
Among other goals for the for-profit consulting group: “Future-Facing. MGT recognizes the changing face of education, as requisite knowledge shifts and desirable goals are reimagined so students are prepared for a 21st century workplace. With our broad knowledge background and significant experience, we will give you solutions that are appropriate and actionable.”
A current focus of MGT Consulting, one shared by Dance, is “technology strategic planning:” “Our experts know how to effectively produce strategic planning documents including all necessary inputs and are able to present the technology strategic plans to governing bodies in a way that encourages adoption.”
Dance’s strategic planning skills are evident in reports for BCPS, including Blueprint 2.0. Yet there are questions about the financial efficacy–as well as no objective evidence of positive student learning outcomes–for Dance’s signature laptop-per-student initiative known as Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT).
Among other issues, Baltimore County’s standardized PARCC student test scores last year came in lower than districts in the region, and in some cases dropped below the state average. Still unproven since launched in 2014, STAT nonetheless is being used widely–by Dance and others, including BCPS’ digital director Ryan Imbriale–as an example to replicate in other school districts around the country.
Dance and other top district administrators have also traveled widely across the U.S., spending hundreds of thousands in taxpayers dollars to do just that. See post with details here.
MGT Consulting Group had a contract with Baltimore County Public Schools in the past Dance later said, noting he will be a senior vice president for MGT, in part “to lead a new effort to provide school systems advice on improving academic performance.”
A second part-time consulting position: a Senior Fellow at the Center for Digital Education (CDE), advising technology industry companies creating educational products and programs. Dance, a longtime public school official, will now work inside that industry, yet consult with school districts as well.
As recently reported: “Specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding, the CDE is also a division of e.Republic, a national research company which focuses exclusively on education on the state and local government levels. According to their website, e.Republic works with over 700 companies – from “Fortune 500s to startups” – in order to help those companies ‘power their public sector sales and marketing success.’
Among the companies listed: Intel, IBM, Blackboard, Microsoft, Aerohive, Apple, Samsung, Dell and Google.” Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, and other companies are familiar entities at BCPS. (See contracts below).
Why these consulting groups? And why now? (Dance resigned just one year into a second four-year contract, giving the district just two months notice). Perhaps an answer is partly here: A recently approved change in BCPS’ Ethics Code apparently raises questions about any employee participating in, or negotiating a job with, an entity doing business with BCPS and related (see below).
Ethics code revisions also appear to put limits on any employee participating/holding a position in a Limited Liability Corporation. (Dance has just such an LLC.) The timing of all this is quite likely not coincidental.
Dance unexpectedly announced his resignation on Tuesday, April 18, the day various Ethics Code changes were set for a first read by the Board of Education. BCPS’ Policy Review Committee, which is also advised by the district’s General Council Margaret-Ann F. Howie, had suggested the following amendments, among others:
See the policy here and linked below.
The Ethics Code details: Policy 8363 “Conflict of Interest–Prohibited Conduct,” with added language in ALL CAPS, notes that except as otherwise permitted, a school official may not participate in any matter in which the following is a party: “A business entity, INCLUDING A LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY OR A LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP, for which the school official or a QUALIFYING relative of the official is an officer, director, trustee, partner or employee.”
In Dance’s most recent financial disclosure forms, he acknowledged ownership/directorship of the LLC “Deliberate Excellence.” Dance wrote that the LLC, filed in Maryland, was formerly in the name of his father, Roy Rogers Dance.
Does this Ethics Code revision, which would take effect after Dance leaves, make such directorship a complication or a conflict? Seems so. Maybe that LLC was too important to let go?
Dance–who has declined to comment on STAT ‘s more than $300 million in costs, his taxpayer-funded travel and related issues–reported no personal income from the LLC.
Among other recent developments, Google Alerts on June 12 noted that Dance is also publishing a book by the same name as his LLC: Deliberate Excellence.
“SAGE Publishing: Shaun Dallas Dance Baltimore County Public Schools, Superintendent. Deliberate Excellence. Professional Book.” It’s unclear if Dance has received a financial advance for the book, which is due out in early 2018, or if that would be prohibited under the district’s ethics code; his role as superintendent is cited specifically. Any income would need to be reported on financial disclosure forms, where disparities have led to recent financial disclosure violations for Dance.
Also, under the revised Ethics Code Policy 8363 is 2 (c and d), which notes that a “school official may not participate in any matter in which any of the following is a party [including] a business entity with which the school official . . .HAS APPLIED FOR A POSITION OR is negotiating EMPLOYMENT.” It appears that also covers any business with a contract with the district, according to the policy. (The language is rather convoluted. Any employment attorneys out there?) A quick search of BCPS procurement databases does not reveal a current contract for MGT Consulting Group with the schools. Will we see one down the pike?
Dance does have numerous crossover affiliations with the Center for Digital Education, its partners, and a related publication, Converge, winning awards and accolades here, here and here–the last in which Dance was named “Maryland Outstanding Leader Using Technology in 2017,” just several weeks before the superintendent announced his resignation: “Dr. Dance’s honor also qualifies him to compete at the national level for an award from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).” The state award was given by the Maryland affiliate of ISTE, which is also listed as a CDE “collaborator.”
Yet Dance also serves on the board of ISTE, and did so while superintendent. He presented at ISTE conferences and conducted numerous “telephone conferences” with ISTE’s board members, according to his superintendent Weekly Updates. See this Bloomberg profile of ISTE, Inc., which notes Dance’s board re-appointment, as well as ISTE revenues and tax forms–annual revenue topping $15.2 million in 2014, the most recent year included. (The superintendent apparently was also at a recent conference attended by reps for CDE, which announced his fellowship position this week, prior to Dance actually leaving).
ISTE edtech sponsors and corporate members, meanwhile, include Microsoft, Discovery Education, CDW-G, and other for-profit companies also awarded mostly no-bid multi-million dollar contracts with BCPS under Dance’s tenure. (Just the three named above approach nearly $18 million over the next few years alone; See also contract links below). ISTE’s sponsor contribution levels are marked here, including ‘Mission’ sponsors like Microsoft at $150,000 annually.
There are way too many edtech ties here . . .
The Ethics Code revisions, approved by the board at the June 13 meeting, would apparently need to be reviewed by state officials before being made law, which is expected in July. Dance’s last day: June 30. Interim superintendent Verletta White officially takes the helm of the 112,000-student school district on July 1. (A BCPS top administrator, White is also linked to the CDE as a member of the center’s Chief Academic Officers Group.)
Overall, were Superintendent Dance’s consulting and travel proclivities too much for our cash-strapped public school system, with its many unmet needs? Whether or not recent Ethics Code changes factored into the superintendent’s departure, various violations or perceptions of conflicts of interest could be underlining issues. Perhaps, this mostly private-sector consulting scenario better suits his promotional charms. The new positions do allow him the flexibility to live close to family in Richmond, Va. Either way, it seems all the nationwide trips promoting the expansion of technology in education–much of that travel on the public dime–has indeed paid off for the superintendent’s career and future, and might yet do the same for other edtech traveling BCPS administrators.
In the end, however, what does it all mean for BCPS students?
Joanne C. Simpson is a former staff writer at The Miami Herald and Johns Hopkins Magazine, a BCPS stakeholder, college educator, and freelance writer based in Baltimore.
Related BCPS contract spending authority links:
Reprinted with Permission From the Blog STAT-us BCPS