—– By: Ann Costantino —–
A Baltimore Post Update
The chief executive officer of the Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI), the controversial education consulting firm whose payments to two Baltimore County Public School administrators became the center of controversy for the system, has offered – through Twitter – a hand to former Superintendent S. Dallas Dance.
After release from a Henrico County, Virginia jail on Monday, Dance tweeted a four-part apology for his actions that led to his four misdemeanor convictions. In April, Dance was sentenced for failing to report roughly $147,000 in income on his financial disclosure statements, money he earned while moonlighting during his tenure leading Baltimore County schools.
Under Dance’s apology, Joseph Wise, the head of ERDI, offered his support and help.
“Dallas. Thank you for sending this message. Best wishes for your future. And, I hope kids are the beneficiaries of your work ahead. You have much to lend to our Nation as we struggle to do what is best for our kids, in & outside of school. Call on me if I can help you in any way.”
Payments from ERDI/Dulle Enterprises were among the unreported income noted in Dance’s January indictment papers. Dance had failed to disclose $4,608 he earned as a consultant for ERDI in 2015.
The Tweet was mentioned in an editorial by The Baltimore Sun on Monday, but Wise was not identified by The Sun as having a connection to ERDI, nor being the company’s CEO. The Sun’s article centered on Dance’s critics, supporters and his future as a leader of equity and opportunity after the felonies. Wise’s Tweet was identified by The Sun as an example of a Dance supporter. An excerpt from The Sun’s editorial, below:
ERDI, whose clients are vendors who sell products and services to school systems, pays education leaders to meet with its clients. Those vendors, who records show select which education leaders with whom they wish to meet, in turn pay ERDI membership fees which determine the level of access its clients have to education leaders of their choosing. The multi-day conferences occur at resorts across the country.
School Boards and superintendents have struggled over whether or not administrators who participate with ERDI are involved in a conflict of interest. ERDI’s relationship with education leaders has been questioned in school systems including those in California, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, South Carolina, Washington, and even B.C. Canada.
In Baltimore County, what has been especially troubling are contracts awarded to ERDI’s technology clients while the school system was under the leadership of former Superintendent Dance.
The scale of Dance’s spending on ERDI’s technology clients – while he led Baltimore County schools – has been detailed, both locally and nationally.
Freelance journalist, Joanne C. Simpson, found that Dance committed Baltimore County schools to at least $260 million by the 2018-2019 school year for the school system’s 1:1 digital curriculum laptop program, STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow).
Simpson pointed out in a November Towson Flyer Op-Ed that about one dozen ERDI clients have been awarded contracts with the school system for the STAT program, contracts put in place under Dance’s tenure. Among the vendors: Discovery Education for $10 million, Curriculum Associates/iReady for $3.4 million, and DreamBox Learning for $3.2 million.
Also in November, the New York Times reported that a few months after a February 2016 ERDI conference in New Orleans, at which Dance met with ERDI clients Curriculum Associates and DreamBox Learning, Baltimore County schools increased its spending authority with the vendors by $2 million and $1.8 million, respectively.
ERDI charges its clients between $13,000 to $66,000 to meet with school district leaders. But the company maintains that it facilitates the meetings between its clients and education leaders as an opportunity for its clients to receive valuable feedback on products and services which ultimately will improve them for students, teachers and school systems.
The Baltimore Post reported in February that Dance charged Baltimore County schools for travel costs related to a 2015 ERDI event, at which the former superintendent worked as an ERDI consultant for at least four of ERDI’s clients, email records show.
However, the school system would not say if Dance would be required to reimburse the school system, nor what its policy is on paying expenses for employees’ moonlighting and travel unrelated to school business.
The Baltimore Post has reached out to Mr. Wise for comment.