At first bounce, Joe Shilling's resignation as state superintendent of education came as a breathtaking surprise. After all, why would anyone leave the top education job in the state in order to take over a small county system, and at a cut in pay?
At second bounce, however, Shilling's step should come as no )) surprise at all. In the three years since he assumed the state superintendency, he has pretty much achieved the ambitious goals that he set for himself. And it's not in Shilling's nature just to hang around minding the store after the job has been done, the caretaker of a bureaucracy, so to speak. So he is forfeiting the final year of his four-year term in order to get back to the shirt-sleeves work of running the local school system in his home county of Queen Anne's.
Maybe, in the end, it was just a case of his wanting to try out the substantial school reforms that he brought about as a result of his energy, vision and determination. The keystone of the Shilling reform program was accountability -- the use of impartial, quantifiable measures to hold local schools responsible for the quality of education they are imparting to youngsters. His success in achieving that goal was such that he quickly overcame the initial suspicion of William Donald Schaefer, and in the end could claim the governor as a dedicated supporter of his reform policies.
So now Shilling has a unique and challenging opportunity: to put into practice, at the local level, the reforms which he brought about at the top level. We suspect that his purpose was no more than to make a model for others to emulate.