Dance calls on “Team BCPS" to grow school system into being the best in the nation
TOWSON, MD. – Speaking for the first time to the collected school system leadership, BCPS Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance set high expectations for “Team BCPS" – working together with teachers, parents, students, and the community, he said, Baltimore County Public Schools can become the best in the nation.
Titled “Moving Forward: Creating a Culture of Deliberate Excellence," Dr. Dance’s back-to-school address at Loch Raven High School in Towson marked the traditional start of the new school year for nearly 700 principals, assistant principals, office heads, and administrators.
"In the next two to five years, the improvements to this school system will be because of the people in this room right now," he said Friday. “We have a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous opportunity right here before us. . . . This is going to be a great school year. And we aren’t going to wish it so. We are going to make it so. That is what deliberate excellence is all about."
Throughout his remarks, Dr. Dance acknowledged the already-high level of school system performance for children. Examples of BCPS success, he noted, included having the nation’s fourth-highest graduation rate among large systems and having more than half of the system’s high schools named the nation’s best in national surveys.
But, he said, becoming a great school system – no less than the best in the country -- requires more.
“That’s one of my main goals as Superintendent – to make sure we’re doing everything humanly possible to ensure a high-performing school in every community," he said. “Our expectations will be high for all schools, and our actions will demonstrate our expectations. . . . As we move forward in building our culture of deliberate excellence, one of the bedrocks must consist of every single member of this organization – every single member of Team BCPS . . . holding the same high expectations and standards for all 106,000 of our students as we do for our own children."
To accomplish this pursuit of excellence, Dr. Dance said, efforts already are underway to concentrate on four goals for the year:
- Ensuring a high-quality curriculum in all content areas while transitioning to the state's Common Core standards. Citing national reports that say children are not sufficiently challenged in school, Dr. Dance challenged administrators to find ways to address the needs of the whole child. "It is not simply about boosting our mathematics and reading skills," he said. "Our students are whole individuals preparing for the rest of their lives. Classes in art, health, physical education, music, finance, world languages, and other subjects are essential. . . . These classes are not ancillary; they are integral."
During his address, Dr. Dance announced several initiatives designed to focus resources and support to schools and principals, including a reorganization of the system's organizational structure that will be presented to the Board of Education of Baltimore County on August 21.
In addition, Dr. Dance said, schools will be arranged into three tiers based on student performance in order to better direct specific supports and resources. He also pledged additional attention and resources for middle and high schools – priorities for the new superintendent -- including additional administrative support and resources.
- Focusing strategically on professional growth and development for employees. "People matter. They matter in education. They matter in life," he said. "Without everyone understanding their important role in achieving our vision, we will not achieve our mission."
To that end, he said, opportunities for professional development and growth must be available to every BCPS employee. "The most important question about any organization is how does it cultivate talent at every level, across every department," he said.
- Ensuring that all communications are timely, transparent, and clear. Already, he added, improvements have taken place, including the establishment of the "Deliberate Excellence" system blog (http://deliberateexcellence.wordpress.com/), enhanced social media resources, including Dr. Dance's Twitter account (http://twitter.com/DDance_BCPS), and easier access to additional information, especially for parents, on the BCPS Web site (www.bcps.org/system/parentreference.html).
"Timely, clear, and transparent communication is only part of the story, however," Dr. Dance said. "Our success depends on the full buy-in of our stakeholders. We want them to be fully engaged in the educational process and fully engaged in our school system. To become the best school system in the nation, we must get out in front of issues and solve them with our bargaining units, our teachers, our parents, our students, and other members of the BCPS community."
Dr. Dance also offered a reality check for the school system, saying progress was possible only by "confronting the brutal facts." "That means telling the truth about gaps between where we are and where we want to be. That means having honest discussions and being open to hearing occasional criticism and a constant barrage of ideas," he said.
The 2012-2013 school year begins for students on Monday, August 27. Baltimore County Public Schools’ enrollment is projected to approach 107,000 students, about 1,600 students more than last year and the largest expected increase in student enrollment in the past 15 years.
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