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Dec. 22, 2007

State Superintendent's term extended four years

by Kiera Zitelman, Online Editor-in-Chief
The members of the Maryland State Board of Education (MSDE) voted on Dec. 11 to extend State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick's term another four years. Despite a warning against the extension from Governor Martin O'Malley and legislative leaders in Annapolis, the board reaffirmed Grasmick by a vote of seven to four, according to board member Rosa Garcia.

Grasmick's term was scheduled to expire in July with the majority of the current Board members, who were appointed by former Governor Robert Erlich, according to the Washington Post.

Garcia, appointed by O'Malley last July, thought that the Board's decision, which will affect the entire state, was made too quickly. "I was surprised that we rushed through the process," she said. "We're asking for accountability at every level. Dr. Grasmick is the highest ranking educational leader in the state."

Garcia, of Silver Spring, expressed unease with the process involved in Grasmick's reappointment. "My concern is that one of the rules of the Board is to provide oversight and accountability," she said. "I was not given an opportunity to do a thorough review of the issue."

Garcia declined to comment on any more details from the Dec. 11 vote, as the board members have agreed to keep the deliberations confidential.

Grasmick has served since 1991, but O'Malley has criticized her and continues to encourage her removal from the job, according to The Baltimore Sun. As mayor of Baltimore, O'Malley disagreed with Grasmick's 2005 attempt to implement a state takeover of 11 underperforming Baltimore city schools, The Baltimore Sun reports.

During her term, Grasmick has been a vocal supporter of standardized testing to measure student success, as well as accountability when schools underperform, according to The Baltimore Sun. Blair social studies teacher George Vlasits expressed his disapproval of such objectives. "She's made our whole focus for the first two years getting kids through the NSL HSA," he said. "Accountability is a good idea. My problem is with her approach to education."

Vlasits believes that the MSDE is too political to help students succeed. "I have a problem with the State Board of Education because it's very political," he said. "When you start to politicize education, you run into problems."

Grasmick's support of testing, which has been nationally implemented with President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" plan, has many teachers dissenting. Kevin Moose, head of the International Studies Academy, opposes the current level of standardized testing. Like Vlasits, he cited the National/State/Local Government High School Assessment as an example of testing gone too far. "I'm all for some level of testing, but I think it's gotten out of control," he said. "The state NSL HSA is too hard...there's a limit."

The Maryland state legislature has expressed interest in giving the Board of Education the power to fire the superintendent at will, according to The Baltimore Sun. During the next four years, however, Grasmick can only be fired for appropriate cause.

Superintendent Grasmick was not available for comment.



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