They will never be Rogers and Astaire, but Gov. Martin O'Malley and State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick finally realized it takes two to tango. Most important, their announced truce avoids what could have been a lengthy and divisive fight in the General Assembly over ill-advised legislation to give the governor more control over the superintendent's job. It also shows a welcome willingness by both to work together on behalf of Maryland's schoolchildren.
To his credit, Mr. O'Malley seems to have taken the larger step toward reconciliation. Since he's been in office, he has made no secret of his desire to replace Ms. Grasmick with someone of his own choosing. He was still bristling from her attempt in 2006 to gain greater control over 11 troubled Baltimore schools while he was mayor. In recent months, he had indicated publicly that he did not trust her, and he accused her of being a "pawn" of the Republican Party.
Regrettably, the escalating rhetoric was echoed by state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, and, to a lesser extent, by House Speaker Michael E. Busch. As recently as last week, Mr. Miller was threatening to introduce legislation that could have forced her out by the end of the year. While education can't be isolated from politics, having the superintendent accountable to the state Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor for staggered terms, at least offers a desirable measure of insulation. Now that Mr. O'Malley has backed down from a potentially bad precedent, Ms. Grasmick may find it easier to leave before the end of the four-year term that the board recently awarded her.
In the end, it's good that cooler-headed third parties persuaded both to bury the hatchet. The specific areas where they found common ground can help advance the state's interests: a survey of teachers could focus on what's needed in classrooms; increasing career and technical courses could steer more students to BRAC-related professions; and greater efforts to recruit more principals is essential to turning around many of the state's low-performing schools.
Students would also be helped by expanded tutoring, counseling and other programs to ensure passing marks on high school assessments and continuing cooperation on school construction needs. There's a to-do list for these newly minted allies to ponder.