Dance’s boondoggle program comes under fire
This is a “behind the scenes” look at Dr. Dallas Dance’s STAT program. The Post has received an exclusive transcript that shows the complete lack of transparency between Dr. Dance and some board members who question the necessary data needed to back up this progressive $375 million program, which will eventually put a laptop computer into the hands of every BCPS student.
Before you read the transcribed meeting notes, you might want to take a look at Liz Bowie’s article in the Sun that actually shows a backslide of BCPS’s progress, or–in this case–the lack of progress, which brings into question the entire BCPS STAT program.
When questioned in another Sun article about this lack of progress and its relationship to STAT, Dr. Dance dismissed the relationship between the failing scores and STAT as “insignificant.”
Below is a video that shows a Discovery Education executive trying to put a happy face on the program. The one thing I found interesting, aside from the multi-million dollar deal between Dance and Discovery Education, is that I have been presented no justifiable data to support this huge expenditure.
Here is the video; I suggest that you watch this right before bedtime:
With that out of the way, here are the transcribed notes of the meeting, which should cause some concern:
Included in the transcription, below, is where Dallas Dance talks about the reduction of BCPS programs to free up the budget for the STAT initiative. In his words, Dance said that BCPS went from around 500 programs to fewer than 200. So, almost 300 programs were eliminated — in addition to reducing some central office staff — to free up the budget for STAT.
Besides the example that Dance repeatedly uses of copiers and printers and print management becoming centralized, what else was reduced? Was the high school schedule change one of those programs, for instance? And the reduction and/or sharing of teachers or the reduction of courses? How about the re-tread tires instead of new ones? Was changing up the routing for buses done to reduce bus drivers? (The HUGE and ongoing transportation debacle)… Are their fewer bus drivers now? What about when Assistant Principals were removed from schools if there were fewer than 350 students (Was it 350 or more?). Is this why we have too few school counselors per student ratio? And a ratio of 1:1501 of social workers to pupils? Also, is this why there are several positions that have not been filled in BCPS? What else was eliminated (or pared down) in order to make way for STAT?
This is from the 2016 ASU GSV Conference. Dallas Dance, Verletta White, Ryan Imbriale, and Mays Chapel Elementary’s Principal Steve Coco, and Second Grade Teacher, Andrea Bishop, made up the panel of speakers, representing BCPS. The panel, although at an ASU Global Silicon event, was moderated by Scott Kinney, Senior Vice President (one of them) of Discovery Education. (One of our big STAT vendors!)
Kinney:From a funding perspective, the folks who control the purse strings if you will – because there are funds that go along with this initiative – what are they looking for? I mean, is it the Hopkins study or…?
(Dr. Dance along with others on panel, including Kinney, giggle.)
What are they… uh.., (as the panel giggles)… Uh, is that a tough one? But what are they looking for as a measure of success to continue this initiative?
Dallas Dance: Sure, and I don’t know if I would say that it’s a tough one. I think it just depends on which stakeholder you’re asking. Right? So, I always, again, go back to the initial onset of developing the plan. And, the community as a group, we said this was something that we, in fact, want to do. We also think through our convergence, you know, that budget is a big part of it. This costs money. I also recognize the fact that I have a $1.7 billion budget – and while 85% of it is people – it’s still a little bit of discussion around what we’re using our dollars based on. So, one thing — immediately coming in — is I kept asking: “how many programs do we use in this district?”. Not many people could answer that. Right? So, we actually tasked “Research and Accountability”, and, as a superintendent wanting to drive the organization based on results, I actually put more resources into Accountability. We then came up with almost 500 programs in the district we were using. And I kept asking “what is the academic return on each investment that we’re doing”, because I could look at that point — and I know my budget probably better than my budget people, or just as well as they know — I could give them and say “how much are we spending per student based on the results that we’re getting with X program?” And doing a side-by-side analysis of that, we’re now down to less than 200 programs we’re using within the district. We are then able to reallocate those dollars to initiatives that we know really, really matter. We then started asking ourselves “do we have the right people in place in order to carry out our initiative?” So there, there were some central positions we knew we had to look at. Right? We went line-by-line within that budget, even asking ourselves “how do we procure devices, because I would have principals — one on this stage, and you can probably guess which one — who really wanted to make great decisions for their kids and really were saying “we want broadband in our schools, so we want to get it.” So, I would have PTAs going out — putting routers in schools — or principals going to some type of store to get routers for their schools and we kept saying, “guys, these are things that we should be doing, but –unless we go line-by-line — look at our procurement practices, buy wholesale, and then buy direct, and then buy in bulk for the system, we can do this. So, yeah, we went through a conversation of “should, you know, every single school lease its own printers and copiers?” Or is that something that, central-wide, we have a conversation around — print management and we move to that. At the end of the day, then we were able to go to our funding authorities and — my budget comes entirely from the state and from the county — and we were able to go to them and say: “this is what we want to do — but this is what we have done internally to redirect funds in order to pay for it — and this is ultimately what it will cost if you were to commit to doing this with us.” We are very, very fortunate. Our County Executive just rolled out his budget last week, that they’re funding our initiatives, meaning they’re funding STAT. They’re funding our Passport program — which is where our elementary kids are learning a second language prior to graduation — because they are also seeing that our two big initiatives have third-party evaluators giving us a feedback based on it. So, the Center for Applied Linguistics, you know, they analyze and evaluate our Passport program. Johns Hopkins Center for Reform and Education is analyzing our STAT initiative. And we are taking those data points we get — we’re informing our board, we’re making those public — and then we’re actually adjusting our practices based on that.
Kinney:Is that a no-brainer? I mean — anybody going through this process — should they hire an outside evaluator?
Dallas Dace: I think, if you go back to Ryan’s (Imbriale) point around change management… and this is when I go back and — I am probably one of the biggest reflectors — you go back and you think about the groundwork that was laid in that one to two years — it was really understanding that people want to do what’s right for kids. They understand that change is important, that change is going to happen, but you’ve also got to recognize that if you don’t address the culture around “what is change and how might change be impacting an organization?”, it’s going to eat your strategy up. And so, coming into Baltimore County, you know, it was very, very clear –and I was told this, you know, “you’re going into a really, really good school system.” I was told by a colleague who told me: “you could really stay there 12 to 15 years if you do absolutely nothing, just maintain the system.” The community did not want that. The community was asking “what is the next level of academic excellence for our school system?” But I knew that — in order to make it happen — then we had to make folks aware of what we were trying to do, why we wanted to do it — meet people where they are — and build a culture that: “ you know what, this is not about an ‘I got you,’– but we all had to move forward. So, yeah, this was a superintendent sitting in a principals’ meeting saying: “I don’t know how we’re going to get there. I know that — at the end of the day — we are going to get there.” And that was quite different… and it’s quite different from most organizations because people don’t get that type of leadership. So, investing in principals — investing in people who were in different positions within the organization — I think that was really what drove to where we are today.
I will leave you with the following thought, folks. Is this really how you want your hard earned tax dollars spent? Or can you think of better ways to spend $375 million on our schools?
I prefer not to watch my money waltz, two-step, or do any other “Dance” out the window.