Dance gets raise from school board
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 13:07

The county school board has given Superintendent S. Dallas Dance a pay raise.

 by Nicole Rodman

The Board of Education of Baltimore County voted last week to amend the contract of Dr. S. Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools.
    Dance began his tenure as superintendent on July 1, 2012. His contract runs through  June 30, 2016.
    Under the newly amended contract, which has been approved but not yet signed, Dance will earn an additional $5,000 per year — bringing his annual salary up to $265,000.
    The amended contract also includes a number of benefit increases. Under the new amendments, Dance will be reimbursed $18,200 for contributions to the state retirement system.
    Additionally, Dance will be paid for up to 20 unused vacation days, up from 15 days in his current contract.
    The amended contract also prevents Dance from accepting any outside consulting positions.
    As school board president David Uhlfelder told The Eagle last Thursday, the stipulation was the result of an ethics investigation into Dance’s previous consulting work with SUPES Academy.
    In June, a school board panel ruled that Dance had broken ethics rules by taking the position with SUPES.
    According to Uhlfelder, the board approved the increased compensation in recognition of Dance’s achievements in the past two years.
    “If you recognize you’ve got a star — a gem — you react first,” he said.
    “BCPS is recognized as one of the outstanding school systems in the country. Why? Because of Dallas Dance,” he noted during a school board meeting earlier this month.
    Uhlfelder ran down a list of Dance’s achievements as superintendent — a list that included appointments to the United Way of Central Maryland and Northwest Hospital of Baltimore boards of directors.
    As Uhlfelder noted, Dance was also named one of the 10 national “Connected Educator Champions of Change” by president Barack Obama.
    “I think he’s underpaid, in my personal opinion,” Uhlfelder said, citing the example of Baltimore City schools chief executive officer Gregory Thornton, who makes $290,000 per year.
    As Uhlfelder pointed out, the majority of school board members —all but two — agreed to the contract amendments.
    While Uhlfelder said he was unable to remember which members opposed the amendments, the Baltimore Sun identified board member Michael Collins as one of the dissenters.
    Collins told the Sun that he opposed the amendment because he believes it violates the terms of Dance’s contract.
    Dance’s contract specifies that “any salary adjustment shall not be greater than the salary adjustments negotiated and made for certified classroom employees [teachers].”
    While teachers have not received a cost-of-living increase in several years, they will receive a three-percent bonus this year and a five-percent increase next fall.
    According to Uhlfelder, a $5,000 raise in Dance’s salary represents a 1.9 percent increase — less than the increase being given to teachers.
    Collins argued that the additional benefits added to the contract (including reimbursement for payments to the retirement system and an increase in the number of reimbursable unused vacation days) actually represent a $27,000 raise — or more than 10 percent of Dance’s salary.
    Collins claimed that, since the benefits are taxable, they should be considered salary.
    As Uhlfelder told The Eagle, the language of the contract refers to “salary adjustment.”
    Uhlfelder argued that only the $5,000 counts as a “salary adjustment,” while the remaining compensation is considered a “fringe benefit.”
    “We adjusted his fringe benefits, but not salary,” he said of the additional $22,000 of compensation added to the contract.
    Uhlfelder acknowledged that the adjustment to Dance’s “fringe benefits” is taxable, but added “so are all other fringe benefits.”
    Critics have also questioned whether it is appropriate for Dance to receive a pay raise when teachers have not received cost-of-living increases for several years.
    “I don’t think you can compare the two,” Uhlfelder responded, noting that Dance is an employee of the Board of Education while teachers are employed by BCPS.
    Uhlfelder also noted that teachers have a union and their contract is negotiated.
    He added, “I think teachers ought to earn more, absolutely.”
    While BCPS chief communications officer Mychael Dickerson declined to comment on the amended contract prior to its finalization, he did provide a statement from Dance.
    “I look forward to discussing the amendments to the contract once it has been signed by all parties. It would be premature to comment prior to that point,” Dance said.
    He added, “Most importantly, I look forward to the continued positive working relationship I have with the Board of Education as it has demonstrated its commitment and support to the direction of our school system.”
    Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, noted that all BCPS staff deserve a “strong compensation package.”
    “We need to make sure we are creating a committed workforce willing to stay in BCPS instead of moving to counties where stronger incentives to recruit and retain their employees are in evidence,” she said, noting, “We can do more and need to do more for the sake of our students.”