Nancy Grasmick tapped for superintendent DJS secretary expected to assume state schools post.


The state Board of Education was to announce formally this afternoon that Nancy S. Grasmick, secretary for the Department of Juvenile Services, will take over as state superintendent of schools.

The announcement was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in the board's offices.

Grasmick, who assumed the juvenile services post in January, will continue as special secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families, the state position that first lured her from the Baltimore County public school system two years ago.

As superintendent, she replaces Joseph L. Shilling, who announced his resignation in May.

Her departure from juvenile services means the department will have to find its third secretary this year. Grasmick moved into that post after Linda D'Amario Rossi left to take a job in her home state of Rhode Island.

But Grasmick's short tenure at the agency has left at least one significant legacy -- the privatization of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, a training school for juvenile delinquents in northeast Baltimore County. The school made its final transition to the private sector Sunday, when a Colorado-based agency assumed full control.

"The experience in DJS was very positive for me," Grasmick said in an interview late last night, after several sources had confirmed her appointment to succeed Shilling. "It's just, at the heart of my philosophy, I believe for a child that family and education are the first imprints."

Grasmick had been reported to be a contender for the job since Shilling announced his resignation to take the superintendent's job in Queen Anne's County. Grasmick initially had said she would not be interested in the job, but changed her mind when the board approached her.

By taking the superintendent's job, Grasmick has returned to her professional roots. Before she was appointed special secretary, she had spent 28 years in public schools, working in virtually every position.

She began as a teacher in Baltimore, moving to the county two years later. In 26 years in the county system, she worked as a teacher, a supervisor, principal, assistant superintendent and associate superintendent.

Appointed to oversee the Office for Children, Youth and Families by Gov. William Donald Schaefer in 1989, Grasmick first had to overcome legislators' skepticism and cynicism. Because her husband is Lou Grasmick, a Schaefer ally, Grasmick's selection was considered largely political.

However, she quickly won fans within the General Assembly and among the state's advocates for children's programs. In fact, when stories began circulating this summer that she might succeed Shilling, some advocates worried that her departure would hurt juvenile services.

But Grasmick said last night that if she is successful in her dual role as superintendent of schools and special secretary for children, youth and families, the Department of Juvenile Services will find its job much easier.

"It's a more holistic point of view," she said. "I don't feel I'll in any way be abandoning juvenile services."

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