(UPDATE, 4:33 p.m.)—The Baltimore County Board of Education is set to tap a Houston school official as its next superintendent.
S. Dallas Dance will take office on July 1, succeeding Joseph A. Hairston, who has served as superintendent since 2000 and announced his retirement in October 2011.
“I am thrilled, honored, and humbled to be joining such an outstanding school system," Dance said in a statement released by the school system. "I intend to work tirelessly to reach out and collaborate with everyone who wants to make Baltimore County schools an even better place for students.”
Since 2010, Dance, 30, has been chief middle schools officer in the Houston school system, the seventh-largest in the country.
"He was just very impressive," said Lawrence E. Schmidt, president of the Baltimore County Board of Education. "He's just a special talent."
Dance will likely be paid about $250,000 per year, Schmidt said, although negotiations have not yet begun on his contract.
The Baltimore Sun first reported Dance's selection early Tuesday.
Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said she had not yet spoken with Dance, but did see him Monday at a town hall in Howard County.
"He seemed very personable and obviously he knows his stuff," Beytin said. "And the fact that two different (searches) found him to be a top-notch candidate speaks well for him."
The county schools press release announcing Dance's appointment calls him a "steady and driven leader with outstanding communication, problem solving, and human relations skills."
"Dr. Dance is an unflappable professional who is respected for his political acumen, his talent for building and leading high performing teams, and for his ability to engage staff, students, and community members," the press release states.
The press release credits Dance with his role in raising Houston's graduation rate, lowering the dropout rate, test score gains, and forging a partnership with Harvard University to transform 20 under-performing schools.
Dance was traveling home to Houston on Tuesday afternoon, a school system spokesman said, and was not available for comment.
When officials reached Dance in his hotel room around 11 p.m. on Monday, "he was thrilled," Schmidt said.
The board will hold an open vote at a later date, and state officials must still approve Dance's hiring.
There was some concern from board members about a state law that requires superintendents to have three years of teaching experience. Dance spent just over two years as a teacher in Henrico County, Virginia before he was promoted, but continued to teach as an adjunct professor in colleges for several years.
According to Schmidt, after the board's second interview with Dance, county school officials asked state education officials if Dance would be acceptable under those rules. State officials said Monday that he would be, Schmidt said.
Some county residents have questioned Dance's breadth of experience and asked whether a 30-year-old is ready to run the third largest school system in Maryland. But the proof is in Dance's quick rise, Schmidt said.
"If you look at his resume, his ascent through progress has just been spectacular," Schmidt said, adding that the board contacted people who worked with him and above him in Texas and Virginia and all gave glowing reviews.
Schmidt pointed to figures like Kurt Schmoke (elected as Baltimore's state's attorney at 32) and Brandon Tartikoff (named president of NBC's entertainment division in 1981 at age 31) as proof that age may just be a number.
"I think Mark Zuckerberg's doing OK," Schmidt said, referring to the 27-year-old Facebook founder.
In an Explore Howard County feature last week, officials and critics in both states spoke highly of the young administrator.
Before working in Houston, Dance served in Virginia school systems. He started as a high school English teacher in Henrico County and rose the ranks from assistant principal to principal to district administrative roles in Chesterfield County and Louisa County schools. Dance also taught as an adjunct professor at Averett University, the University of Houston, the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Read his bio on the Houston school district's website.
Dance is unmarried and the father of a two-year-old son named Myles.
Dance appeared at the town hall meeting in Howard County alongside Renee Foose, deputy superintendent in Baltimore County under Hairston. Patch reports that the Howard County board on Tuesday selected Foose for the job.