Retreats for New Superintendents

By Doug Eadie

S. Dallas Dance, the new superintendent of Maryland’s Baltimore County Public Schools, is one of the youngest CEOs of a large district in the U.S. At age 31, he is tasked with running a system that has 105,000 students, 17,000 employees, and a $1.5 billion budget.

Dance started July 1, but several weeks before he came on board, board President Lawrence E. Schmidt approached him about holding an intensive daylong retreat to ensure a close and productive board-superintendent working relationship. This “strategic work session,” which was held on July 14 and involved the board, Dance, and his executive team, was considered an unqualified success.

 “I couldn’t have been happier at what we accomplished in only a day together,” Dance says. “Not only did the event energize participants, we also generated a mountain of really practical ideas for building a rock-solid board-superintendent partnership that could withstand the inevitable stresses and strains at the top of a huge, complex educational enterprise. And we even went on to identify several ways to strengthen the board’s governing capacity.”

I recently talked at length with Schmidt and Dance about what they felt made the session such a winner. In their eyes, five key elements emerged.

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