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School Takeover Spurs Political Questions


Even as they went on offense in the long-running battle over how to improve Baltimore schools, state education officials this week appeared a bit defensive.

Before and after the State Board of Education's vote yesterday to seize control of four high schools and order local officials to find new management for seven middle schools, board members and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick were peppered with questions about their political motives.

Reporters asked whether they were undermining Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's Democratic candidacy for governor--an impression O'Malley himself stoked in various public appearances.

Grasmick, a Democrat occasionally mentioned as a possible running mate for the Republican governor, denied that she was aiming to damage O'Malley or boost the reelection of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

She told reporters that the 11 targeted schools had been on a state watch list since 1997 or earlier--in the administrations of Democratic governors William Donald Schaefer and Parris N. Glendening.

"It spans three governors," Grasmick said. "This is not specific to a governor or a mayor." She added that Ehrlich "has nothing to do with this action."

She also pointed to the state's successful takeover of three Baltimore elementary schools in 2000, also during O'Malley's mayoralty, as evidence that intervention can make a difference. Grasmick has held her post since 1991, serving under state boards appointed by Democratic and Republican governors.

Grasmick was mentioned in 2002 as a possible cross-party running mate for Ehrlich but publicly rejected the scenario.This year she is mentioned again occasionally for the same role because Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) is running for U.S. Senate.

Nick Anderson

By Phyllis Jordan  |  March 30, 2006; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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And what happens if Grasmick and her minion don't make a significant difference--then what?

Posted by: D.C. Russell | March 30, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The state might have had some credibility on this takeover if it was someone other than Nancy Grasmick spearheading it at this time. But instead, this recent power play only begs the question as to why Nancy Grasmick is allowed to keep her job for so long and show so little results? Governors have come and gone, Mayors have come and gone, Local Superintendents and School Boards have been hired, fired and reconstituted....and yet the one constant factor during these lackluster results has been Nancy Gramick. Perhaps before she starts calling for another shakeup within the Baltimore School System, it seems right to ask if it is time to replace her and bring someone else into the job of state superintentant.

Worse still, the current Baltimore school sysetm operates under the framework of a "City-State Partnership" that was created in 1997. There were five architects to the partnership: Gov. Glendenning, Mayor Schmoke, Delegate Pete Rawlings, Senator Barbara Hoffman and, of course, Nancy Grasmick. Nancy was the chief saleswoman who told anxious parents, city council members, and teachers that the partnership would improve the schools performance and fiscal health. In 2003, well into the partnership, the school system was on the verge of fiscal insolvency. As to the five architects: Glendenning, Schmoke and Hoffman were out of office, Rawlings was deceased, BUT Nancy was still there claiming ignorance as to how this fiscal trainwreck occurred.

Now she demands a takeover and a reshuffle...again????? Now???? Give me a break.

Posted by: Baltimore voter | March 30, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore Voter, you said it well!

Posted by: Matt | March 31, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The state's wanted to give these kids an education for two years! it's only politics because Martin says so? Too bad he used those kids for politics his entire term while doing nothing for them. Martin O'Malley has increased the school's budget 1/3 of 1% since 2003. 81% of the money for the schools comes from federal and state sources. Martin has shown the students nothing except using them when it suits his purposes.

Posted by: What about the kids? | March 31, 2006 7:46 PM | Report abuse

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