ANNAPOLIS -- With apples on every desk and recitations from "Winnie the Pooh," a gathering of about 35 corporate leaders got down yesterday to what they promised would be the serious business of improving Maryland's schools.
Norman R. Augustine, chairman and chief executive officer of Martin Marietta Corp., launched the new Maryland Business Round Table for Education in front of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and some of the state's most powerful CEOs.
"The purpose of today's meeting is to first of all focus attention on the need and the opportunities for the business community to impact education in this state," Mr. Augustine explained at a two-hour conference at the State House. Second, he said, the group would begin to exchange ideas about successful partnerships between businesses and schools.
Although there are thousands of these business-education partnerships throughout the state, most are small-scale efforts limited to individual schools. "A full statewide partnership with the business community had not emerged to ensure that the state's reform effort will be sustainable," said Donald P. Hutchinson, president of the Maryland Chamber and Economic Development Associates, a statewide business organization.
"The [Maryland Business Round Table] has now become that XTC vehicle," said Mr. Hutchinson, whose organization is sponsoring the effort.
The group's agenda will be to help state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick further the Schools for Success program, a list of 10 educational goals the state wants to achieve by the year 2000. Maryland adopted the goals, including a 95 percent graduation rate among all high school students and 100 percent literacy for Marylanders, after the 1989 education summit between President George Bush and the nation's governors.
The driving force behind the new partnership is "not a concern over the inadequacy of education," Mr.Augustine said, "but it's a concern that we mustn't be complacent about education."
He asked the attending CEOs and presidents, who represented companies such as Alex. Brown Inc., Bethlehem Steel Corp., Primerica Corp. and IBM Corp., to make both a financial contribution to the round table and a commitment of personnel over the coming year.
David Kearns, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, told the group that the nation spends between $400 billion and $450 billion each year on education.
"It is in our best interest from an international competition standpoint, or from a state standpoint, to have a world-class education system," Mr. Kearns said.
Mr. Schaefer, in brief remarks at the close of the conference, urged the executives to use their clout and push for more education funding.
"You know and I know that we can't go on and compete in international trade . . . unless we improve our schools," the governor said. "We need the business community."