—- By: Ann Costantino —-
State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt announced today that a Baltimore County grand jury returned an indictment charging Dr. Shaun Dallas Dance, former superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), with four counts of perjury arising from his financial disclosure statements for 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Davitt said in a press release that “Baltimore County public students should be able to trust that their superintendent of schools is carrying out his duties, honestly, with transparency and in the best interest of the students and the schools. Any violation of that trust is intolerable.”
Although charged, Dr. Dance is presumed innocent unless and until there is a conviction. His arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 12.
- Count I alleges that Dance falsely reported income he received from SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates, $500 and $13,500, respectively.
- Count II alleges that Dance was paid up to $72,000 by his consulting firm, Deliberate Excellence Consulting, LLC, for services he provided to Synesi Associates, a sister company of SUPES Academy. Count II also alleges that, under oath, in 2016, Dance amended his 2013 Financial Disclosure Statement, stating that he did not earn income from any entity other than Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS).
- Count III alleges that Dance continued to own Deliberate Excellence Consulting, LLC and earned $12,000, yet reported under oath that he did not earn income that year.
- Count IV alleges that in August 2016, Dance amended his 2015 Financial Disclosure Filing, stating that he did not earn income through Deliberate Excellence Consulting. He earned $47,000 that year.
Over the past several years, concerns regarding ethics and impropriety have settled like thick smog over tree-lined Greenwood, the headquarters of Baltimore County Public Schools. The fallout from Dance’s involvement with SUPES Academy — never fully addressed in Baltimore County — has resulted in three federal convictions in Chicago.
SUPES Academy, an educational consulting firm, which trained aspiring leaders for positions as principals and superintendents, became national news in 2013. The scandal involved the educational consultant company, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools and school systems across the country. Synesi Associates, a sister company of SUPES, was a turnaround program for failing schools. Among the other charges, Dance is accused of failing to disclose payments while under oath, under penalty of perjury, for work he did for both companies.
The two SUPES Academy proprietors, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, and the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Barbara Byrd-Bennett, are currently serving prison sentences in federal penitentiaries. In their 2015 indictment, it was found that Byrd-Bennett was to receive 10% in kickback payments for each SUPES contract she secured with school systems for the company. Their prison sentences began this past summer.
Dance took the helm as BCPS’s superintendent in July 2012, at the age of 30. On August 28, 2012, the young superintendent filed papers to create Deliberate Excellence Consulting, LLC (Company No.: W14868442), which was formed, according to the signed Articles of Organization document, “to consult and partner with school systems, businesses and organizations around best practices to obtain maximum organizational outcomes.”
In December of 2012, Dance brought a $875,000 SUPES Academy contract before Baltimore County’s Board of Education. The board voted in favor of the contract with SUPES Academy, which would serve to train aspiring BCPS principals. Dance then began work for the educational consultant company, training Chicago principals throughout 2013.
According to Dance’s indictment, he was was paid approximately $90,000 by Soloman and Vranas. Like Byrd-Bennett’s kickback deal, the amount is roughly 10% of the $875,000 contract he brought to BCPS. (Records obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request show that the school system paid $525,000 of the contracted spending authority.) Dance’s indictment also states that Solomon and Vranas started paying him through his Deliberate Excellence, LLC on or about November 30, 2012. Dance brought the contract to BCPS’s Board of Education on December 4, 2012 after meeting with Byrd-Bennett less than 7 weeks before.
In July 2013, Chicago-based reporter Sarah Karp reported a questionable no-bid contract between SUPES Academy and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). That December, Karp wrote that Dance was among six superintendents found to have school systems with SUPES contracts (or associated companies) and an administrator hired as a consultant to train principals at CPS. Karp reported, “Dance is now serving and getting paid as both a master teacher and a coach for 11 CPS principals. In 2011, Dance participated in the SUPES Academy superintendent training program… In July of 2012, he was hired for his current position. Five months later, in December of 2012, the Baltimore County Public Schools board approved an $895,000 [sic] contract to have SUPES work with a cohort of principals over three years...”
The same month, Maryland State Delegate Pat McDonough requested an ethics review which questioned Dance’s relationship with SUPES Academy, and in 2014 Dance was found in violation of his contract with BCPS when the ethics panel ruled that he failed to notify BCPS’s Education Board about his 2013 side job with the vendor. Yet the Board failed to address the issue that Dance went to work for the vendor after bringing the $875,000 SUPES contract to BCPS in December 2012, but allowed Dance to choose a cure for the ethics violation. Dance chose not to do any more paid consulting work.
Despite the promise not to continue consulting work, revelations about Dance’s limited liability corporation (LLC) – a “consultant” company- came to light during a second ethics complaint filed in 2016 by former BCPS employee, William Groth III. After the conclusion of the investigation, the ethics panel found Dance in violation for not disclosing the LLC nor an adjunct teaching job he held with the University of Richmond since 2012.
Following that ethics violation, Dance told the Baltimore Sun that the “LLC was not doing any business and had no income.” The Sun reported that Dance said that “he wanted to keep the name” and that he set the consultant company up “so that the University of Richmond could pay the LLC rather than him directly, but it never ended up being used for that purpose.”
According to public records, in March 2014, and while four months into the ethics investigation for his involvement with SUPES Academy, there was an expedited change request to the name of the “resident agent” for Deliberate Excellence Consulting, LLC.
The change was finalized on May 11, 2014, at which time Shaun Dallas Dance, Ph.D. of Pikesville, Md. resigned as resident agent and when Roy Rogers Dance of Towson, Md. was appointed. The Pikesville address, however, remained in public records as receiving mail associated with the LLC. (A change in resident agent for an entity does not change ownership of the company. It does, however, change the representative assigned to the company.)
Dance’s financial disclosure form showed Roy R. Dance listed as the resident agent and principal for his LLC in Towson, which was Dance’s original address assigned to the LLC when formed by “Shaun Dallas Dance Ph.D” in 2012.
On June 11, 2014, seven months into the ethics investigation for SUPES Academy, tax forms were filed for Deliberate Excellence Consulting, LLC after a two-month extension. One day later, the conclusion of the ethics complaint was revealed that Dance was found to have been in violation of his contract related to his involvement with SUPES Academy.
Dance states on a 2015 Financial Disclosure Form filing that the LLC was willed to him upon his father’s death.
The former superintendent announced his resignation from BCPS in April and left at the end of June. The Baltimore Sun reported in September that Dance was allegedly under criminal investigation during that time.
In a September interview with BCPS Board Member David Uhlfelder, the board member confirmed with the The Baltimore Post that he and other board members had been interviewed by state prosecutors about Dance and SUPES Academy, but he felt it was an “ethical issue” and not a “criminal” one.
This past fall, New York Times and Baltimore Sun articles revealed Dance’s consulting work for the Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI), a Chicago-based educational consultant company that links school system leaders and vendors to, the company says, provide feedback to companies on their products and services.
In an earlier story by The Baltimore Post, a cache of emails found by a Post reporter revealed that Dance was chosen by ERDI client, iStation, as its number one pick to meet at a February 2016 ERDI conference. iStation saw the networking opportunity as way to pitch its education technology products to 10 superintendents that the company paid ERDI $23,000 to meet. ERDI, in turn, pays superintendents to meet with its clients.
After several media reports came to light regarding ERDI and BCPS, calls for a Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) audit of BCPS began. The New York Times published a follow-up article in which Maryland State Senator Jim Brochin called on the MSDE to audit the school system. Four members of Baltimore County’s Education Board, who also requested the MSDE audit, recently asked the Maryland Delegation for a special state-level legislative audit of technology contracts connected to ERDI, while Dance served as superintendent. The Post is awaiting an update on both audit requests.
Upon hearing news of the indictment today, William Groth – who filed the 2016 ethics complaint which included the LLC – told The Baltimore Post, “I take no joy in the news of these indictments, but I also stand by my original belief – that being, that Superintendent Dance was an ethically challenged young man during his tenure at BCPS. We all need to remember that each BCPS student has but one chance at a free, rigorous, quality education to get the best possible start in life,” he said.
“The superintendent is the one person who bears the ultimate responsibility for carrying out that mission. As the top educational leader in Baltimore County, and for many, a ‘dynamic roll model’ for over 110,000 students, I believe that perjuring oneself is not the recipe for success we should be sending to our young people!”
Dance is presumed innocent unless and until the case concludes with a conviction. His indictment can be viewed here.
1/24/18 Update: The MSDE released the following statement: “BCPS Audit of Procurement Practices – At the December State Board meeting, the Board asked the Superintendent to request the Baltimore County Board to expand the scope and time period of the independent audit BCPS had already decided to procure. BCPS agreed and expanded the time period of the audit and its focus on procurement practices, particularly sole source practices, and technology contracts. The Independent Audit report is due on February 2nd to BCPS. The State Board will assess the results of the audit and decide whether future action is necessary.”