Again, new beginnings for 2 administration veterans Grasmick 'totally committed' to school reforms


On her first day as state school chief, Nancy S. Grasmick pledged her commitment to the package of educational reforms set in motion by her predecessor, Joseph L. Shilling.

"I am totally committed to the reform effort that was crafted by Dr. Shilling and the state Board of Education," Grasmick said at a news conference yesterday.

But Grasmick, the former Maryland Department of Juvenile Services chief who took over yesterday as school superintendent, brings her own personal touch to the job.

"Schools cannot do this alone," she said. "Parents must be partners in this educational process."

And Grasmick said she will encourage "a strong relationship between the state Department of Education and the local school systems."

Shilling's program, made into policy by the state school board, includes an ambitious schedule of school improvements throughout the 1990s, in areas ranging from academics to attendance.

Those improvements are tracked by an annual "report card" that this year will include every school in the state. If schools fail to improve, the state could step in at some point with as-yet-unspecified sanctions.

Grasmick said this year's report card, due out later this fall, "will become a blueprint for each school." And she stressed the amount of work that needs to be done to keep the program on track.

But Grasmick also cited the role of parental and community partnerships in making school improvements.

"I would like to speak to the sense of education being in partnership with the community, and with parents," she said.

Grasmick said she would move slowly before committing herself to a separate set of legislative or administrative changes, saying she will focus first on the changes already begun.

Grasmick, who will stay on as head of the state's Office for Children and Youth, said the two agencies are "a wonderful fit," since problems children encounter at home and outside the classroom can affect their performance in school.

She said she would be able to balance those duties, pledging that "this job, this commitment to education, will not be shortchanged in any way."

On other subjects, Grasmick:

* Deferred an answer on how she will reconcile the push for increased state aid to education and the state's current budget problems.

* Cited earlier remarks that American children "are somewhat shortchanged" in the amount of annual schooling they get, compared with the longer school years in Europe and Japan. But she stopped short of endorsing the call for a 200-day school year at this point.

* Voiced a commitment to equalized funding for school districts around the state., an issue of particular importance to Baltimore City, where per-pupil spending ranks behind most other jurisdictions.

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