New Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent set the tone for his tenure at his first press conference Tuesday, emphasizing communication, collaboration, technology and people as the key components of improving the school system.
"The work before us is a collective effort," he said. "It's not something that Dallas Dance can do by himself."
The school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the 30-year-old Dance, who takes over for Schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston, .
A native of Virginia, Dance has been chief middle schools officer in the Houston school system for the past two years. The district is the seventh-largest in the country.
While the superintendent doesn't take office until July 1, Dance said his transition period has already begun.
"I've had a day packed with listening and learning," he said, adding that he met with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, the Baltimore County Council and Hairston for the first time on Tuesday.
Since he accepted the offer by the board two weeks ago, Dance said he has spoken with more than 45 people in the Baltimore County area. He will be in the area through Thursday before returning to Houston. Dance will also be back this summer for the school system's annual Principals Academy meeting.
Technology was a focal point of his remarks. He made references to texting and how fast people can type on their phones.
Dance, who admitted to being a "manic texter," himself, said that technology has become an increasingly important part of the classroom.
"That's how our kids communicate," he said. "If that's how our kids communicate, it's up to us to figure out how we can continue engaging them in our classrooms."
Board President Lawrence Scmidt said some of the themes Dance touched on in his remarks were what attracted board members to him.
"He's energetic. He has a lot of vision and he's a great communicator," Schmidt said.
He said Dance has wisdom beyond his years, referring to questions about Dance's age.
Dance, himself, said age is not an issue. He referenced historical political figures who held positions at a young age, including Teddy Roosevelt.
"You need a skill set to hold a position," he said. "I would hope the conversation goes from age to skill set."
Dance also said he will stress communication both internally and externally for the nation's 26th largest school district.
"If all of us are on the same page, the 100,000-plus kids that we're expected to supervise and teach every single day will benefit from that work," he said.
Before working in Houston, Dance served in Virginia school systems. He started as a high school English teacher in Henrico County and rose through 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.
Members of Dance's immediate family were at the press conference, including his 2-year-old son, Myles Dallas Dance, his mother and his sister. Dance was raised in the Richmond area, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Because Maryland law requires that superintendents have three years of teaching experience, Dance will be guest teaching in middle and high school classrooms, according to the Sun. Dance only has two years of classroom teaching experience and was granted a waiver by the state superintendent of schools, contingent on his being a guest teacher.