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Md. schools head Nancy Grasmick retiring June 30

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick, the nation’s longest-serving appointed state schools chief, said Wednesday she is retiring June 30 after two decades on the job.

Grasmick, 72, said she wants to spend more time with her family and take on a less grueling job that doesn’t require traveling by car 600 to 700 miles a week. She also noted that Maryland’s schools have received a top ranking in a national education publication for three years in a row.

“I just want more flexibility in my life, and I love leaving on top because I think it’s fair to the next person.”

Grasmick, who became Maryland’s schools superintendent in 1991 during then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer’s tenure, said she is proud to have led the school system to become one that is very strong from early childhood through high school.

Grasmick said she plans to continue working in education, but she’s not sure what her next job will be.

“I will be doing something else, but it’s not going to be 24-7,” she said.

Grasmick said she notified Gov. Martin O’Malley of her retirement plans by letter.

Maryland’s schools superintendent is appointed to a four-year term by the state school board, whose members are chosen by the governor.

Grasmick and O’Malley had an uneasy working relationship going back to when O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore; Grasmick wanted to use the federal No Child Left Behind law to put city schools in the hands of third-party operators in 2006 during his first campaign for governor. The legislature ended up blocking the move. O’Malley, a Democrat, described the plan at the time as “an election-year stunt” to make him look bad.

At the end of O’Malley’s first year as governor, the state board of education voted to retain Grasmick in December 2007, when the board still consisted of holdovers from former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s tenure.

The relationship clearly had remained on shaky ground on the first day of the 2008 session of the General Assembly, when O’Malley referred to Grasmick as “a pawn of the Republican Party of Maryland” during a radio interview. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said at the time that Grasmick’s presence in cabinet meetings “just drives the governor crazy.”

O’Malley eventually shook hands with Grasmick during a news conference in the governor’s reception room in February 2008. Grasmick said Wednesday that the two resolved their differences and worked collaboratively for the better of Maryland schools.

In a statement Wednesday, O’Malley thanked Grasmick for her service.

“From her days teaching deaf children in Baltimore city to now serving as the head of America’s No. 1 public school system, Dr. Grasmick has been long regarded as a champion of many of the progressive reforms we’ve implemented in Maryland,” O’Malley said.

Miller also had strong praise for her.

“No one has done as much as she has in my 40 years here in terms of furthering and promoting a better education for the students of the state of Maryland,” Miller said.

Miller also noted that Grasmick worked with the governor, despite their obvious differences.

“She, more so than he, has made the partnership work,” Miller said.

Baltimore schools Superintendent Andres Alonso said Grasmick’s retirement “is a real loss for us because she’s been such an extraordinary supporter” of the city’s school system.

“From the beginning of my tenure, she was all about ‘How do we support you, how do we make the work better, how do we do things together to improve outcomes for kids and improve conditions for schools?’” Alonso said. “She was all about doing the right thing and doing good things for schools.”

Grasmick said she has been thinking about retiring for the past six months, and noted the 24-7 demands of the jobs in explaining her decision.

“I think at a certain point one has to make personal decisions because this job is very demanding,” Grasmick said, adding that she has not taken a vacation in a year-and-a-half but still has “great ambivalence” about retiring.

One comment

  1. How could a student majoring in Autism and special needs get in touch with Mrs. Nancy Grasmick for educational guidance, etc.? I am enthused about education and mentioned Mrs. Grasmick and her accomplishments to this student, during a conversation. I saw Mrs. Grasmick on Jeff Salkin’s show, Maryland Public Television, a few weeks ago and was highly impressed at her great accomplishments as an educator. We need more people like her. Any help is appreciated. Thank You!