- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley ended his attempt yesterday to remove Maryland public schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, after he did not appear to have the political support to get rid of the successful and longtime education leader.

“I definitely wasn’t going to support the effort,” said Delegate Jill P. Carter, Baltimore Democrat. “Think we need checks and balances, that’s what we’re there for.”

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, made the announcement during a last-minute press conference, in which he ended his political dispute with Mrs. Grasmick by shaking hands, then telling the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to drop legislation that would have led to shortening her new four-year term.

“Dr. Grasmick and I had a real good talk and have agreed to work together,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Removing Mrs. Grasmick would have been difficult, especially after a report by Education Week that stated Maryland had the third-best school system in the country.

Mr. O’Malley’s displeasure for Mrs. Grasmick has largely been considered personal and started when he was mayor of Baltimore and she attempted to take state control of 11 failing schools in the city school system.

Mrs. Grasmick, the country’s longest-serving appointed state schools chief, said the federal No Child Left Behind Act gave the state the authority. However, the Assembly passed legislation to block Mrs. Grasmick’s efforts, then overrode Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s veto of the measure.

Mrs. Grasmick’s attempt also resulted in Mr. O’Malley calling her “the poster child” of No Child Left Behind.

Mr. O’Malley has also called Mrs. Grasmick a “pawn” of the Republican Party. However, she served under Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, both Democrats, before serving under Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who this week planned to introduce the bill to effectively remove Mrs. Grasmick, predicted the governor and state lawmakers could have removed Mrs. Grasmick but would have suffered too much political damage.

“It would have been protracted. It would have been resolved in a courtroom,” said Mr. Miller, Southern Maryland Democrat. “Sometimes you can win the battle and lose the war.”

However, he said he would reintroduce the proposal to remove Mrs. Grasmick possibly as soon as next year.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, agreed the political battle would have been tough for many lawmakers and that politics would have pushed education policy from the table.

“I don’t think it would have been a particularly beneficial undertaking,” he said. “But I think given all the facts, it probably would have had a majority.”

Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Miller had previously made removing Mrs. Grasmick one of their top priorities this year.

Republican leaders said they were happy Mr. O’Malley “stepped back from the brink” and chose to respect the legislature.

“It’s very clear this legislature is not going to stand for injecting partisan politics into our education system,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican.

The state school board, which still has a majority of Ehrlich appointees until July, renewed Mrs. Grasmick’s contract in December, despite a joint request from Mr. Miller and Mr. Busch that they wait until Mr. O’Malley had control of the board.

Mrs. Grasmick said she was happy to be in Mr. O’Malley’s good graces again.

They agreed to work on implementing teacher surveys, adding more career and technical courses and finding ways to get principals to work in struggling schools.

“It’s very important that we work together on behalf of those individuals — those who are providing the instruction and those who are receiving it,” Mrs. Grasmick said.

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