The love fest orchestrated by Gov. Parris N. Glendening last week in support of state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick puts to rest any doubts that this governor is lukewarm on school reform.
While many other states are losing momentum -- half of the nation's state school chiefs left their post in the past year -- Mr. Glendening is shoring up Maryland's efforts by calling on the State Board of Education to ensure continuity of leadership by appointing Dr. Grasmick to another four-year term.
The presence of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor at last week's meeting of the state board was as noteworthy as the words of support for school reform voiced by leaders of the state's teachers unions, who have often been vociferous in their opposition to reform initiatives. While the cooperation of teachers is crucial to school reform, so is the support of the General Assembly. Come January, Dr. Grasmick and Co. will be looking to the legislature for support in a number of areas. First, of course, is adequate funding, particularly in view of the state board's decision to begin the next essential, but difficult, step in reform -- performance assessments for high school students.
The state department will also need legislative support if it is to play a constructive role in the confrontations that are cropping up around the state between school systems and local governments. If the state can carve out a neutral position, it could serve as a valuable role as an arbiter.
Whatever his earlier reservations about Dr. Grasmick's approach to school reform, the governor now is persuaded that she can build the consensus that he rightly views as essential to any widespread change in the education system. If last week's embrace of Dr. Grasmick was somewhat orchestrated, it also seemed heartfelt enough to guarantee the governor's support in tough times as well as on good days. The tough times include the annual release of the dreaded "reconstitution" list of schools where student performance is declining, not improving, and clashes with the Baltimore City schools over the special education lawsuit.
Maryland is fortunate to have educators with a compelling vision -- not just Dr. Grasmick, but also members of the state board, teachers and politicians and business executives who recognize the importance of learning to Maryland's standard of living. The governor's decision to shine the spotlight on this united support for school reform sent a message that other states will hear -- and envy.