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State schools chief shouldn't give O'Malley an excuse to fail

November 16, 2006

Maryland School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick should step down when Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is inaugurated as the state's next governor.

Not because O'Malley wants it, but because the state's highest elected official and the head of the state's school should be on the same page.

These two aren't. Grasmick considered joining Robert Ehrlich's ticket during his first contest for governor. And, during the campaign just completed, she proposed taking over a large portion of the Baltimore City school system.

It's not that something doesn't need to be done to jump-start that system, which spends, on a per-pupil basis, more than any other system in the state.

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The Baltimore system's failure to deliver services to special-needs students jeopardized federal grants to school systems all over the state.

It wasn't that Baltimore officials tried to do the job and failed. In many cases, Grasmick told The Herald-Mail, schools where special summer catch-up classes were supposed to be held didn't have any such activity under way.

Promises were repeatedly made and not kept, she said.

On the other hand, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, she hasn't been able to get the Baltimore system's administrators to do the right thing.

Nor has she been able to get elected officials to back her plans for a shake-up there. If she hasn't done the job in more than 10 years, what makes her - or the state school board - believe that she can get it done in the next 20 months, the time remaining on her term?

Here's what we fear - little or no progress will be made during that time and instead of buckling down to find a solution, O'Malley will blame the Baltimore schools' woes on Grasmick.

It might not be a good one, but O'Malley will have an excuse to offer if the city schools don't improve.

No, we don't favor a law change that would allow the governor to appoint Grasmick's replacement, but the state school board should at least nominate someone he feels he can work with.

Then if O'Malley doesn't do his part, the school board can give him a well-deserved blast. We wish Grasmick well in her future endeavors, but she should go now, so O'Malley can't pass the buck if things don't improve in Baltimore's schools.

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