Before Superintendent S. Dallas Dance officially began his tenure in 2012 in Baltimore County Public Schools, he reviewed two years worth of news coverage about the school system and spent time visiting supermarkets, stores and churches, talking to community members about their thoughts about the schools.
As a result, Dr. Dance identified communications as a key to the overall success of BCPS and called for consistency, openness, greater community engagement, planning, and a diversity of communications tools and approaches including expanded use of social media.
This new, proactive approach has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Dance and Chief Communications Officer Mychael Dickerson have been named the 2015 Leadership Through Communication Award winners, a national honor.
The award is jointly sponsored by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), AASA – The School Superintendents Association, and Blackboard. BCPS will receive a $10,000 award, provided by Blackboard, to be used for student scholarships or communication activities that benefit students and schools.
Along with the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, Dr. Dance has revolutionized the way Team BCPS communicates. Whether it’s during community forums, student and teacher townhall meetings, Parent University or social media and mobile apps, the lines of communication are open and Team BCPS stakeholders are using them to participate and share information.
“It is a testament to all of the hard work BCPS is doing around clear and open communication that our team has received this national award,” Dr. Dance said. “I am so proud to say that Team BCPS truly is at the forefront of communication in education.”
Added Dickerson, “Having a superintendent who understands the importance of communication and the value of the department has been an amazing opportunity. I am honored that Dr. Dance and the department’s efforts are being recognized by our peer professional organizations.”
Board of Education President David Uhlfelder also commended the improved communications efforts at BCPS. “Communications has been an immensely important part of the positive change that Dr. Dance and Mr. Dickerson have brought to Baltimore County Public Schools,” Uhlfelder said. “This award recognizes that change and the strides our school system has taken, led by the superintendent, to open more avenues for information and to create more opportunities for dialog with our students, teachers, parents, business leaders, elected officials, and the community. We’re proud of the effort so far, and we’re excited about doing more in the future.”
The school system’s efforts to open communications channels have yielded positive results and benefits, according to system stakeholders.
“Perhaps it is Dr. Dance’s passion, perhaps it is his natural high level of energy, but whatever the cause, he and Mychael Dickerson have created an awareness of the BCPS goals and objectives in the business community unlike anything I have seen in past decades,” said Bob Latshaw, chairman of the Baltimore County Economic Development Commission and a member of the superintendent’s business advisory council.
“The biggest shift I have observed in Baltimore County Public Schools’ approach to communication is that it is very much proactive. The system is consistently sharing information with all stakeholders to ensure that everyone is well informed,” said Jen Mullenax, principal at Halstead Academy. “Because of this approach, teachers, staff, and community members feel as though they are truly part of Team BCPS.”
According to NSPRA, the Leadership Through Communication Award recognizes the teamwork and exemplary leadership of outstanding superintendents and their communications professionals for demonstrated commitment to the enhancement of communication and relationships between their school system and the families and communities they serve.
The Leadership Through Communication award will be presented at the AASA National Conference on Education in February and the NSPRA National Conference in July.