As Robert Y. Dubel prepares to step down after 16 years as Baltimore County school superintendent, he can take pride in his achievements: The longest tenure of any superintendent currently in the country's 100 largest school systems. The implementation of anti-drug and values education programs that have been praised and imitated nationwide. A hand in maintaining a Students Against Driving Drunk presence in the county while SADD chapters have been closing in other states. A record of bringing home the bacon for the schools, helping education garner almost half of the county budget even in bad economic times.
Still, Dr. Bob's outstanding reputation has not spared him many of the problems that have recently plagued other public school administrators.
The past school year, in particular, has not been an easy one for the 67-year-old superintendent, who officially retires June 30. For starters, last October, a group of school officials, parents and community leaders issued a report that said the county school system was not doing all it could for its burgeoning minority enrollment.
January brought County Executive Roger B. Hayden's order that county employees be furloughed for five days. Dr. Dubel held out hope for a plan that would spare teachers from taking days off without pay. Meanwhile, furloughs for other county employees were being arranged. When the superintendent eventually scheduled furloughs without much teacher input, the teachers' union reacted bitterly, paving the way for sick-outs and a work-to-rule job action by the instructors.
March brought a county auditor's report that the education department had far more administrative staffers than it required. Dr. Dubel reacted angrily -- followed by more anger when the county government cut his budget to a level he called "the most regressive since the Great Depression."
Next month, Dr. Dubel will be succeeded by Dr. Stuart D. Berger, whose selection was widely interpreted as an antidote to aspects of the Dubel regime. Dr. Berger, for example, prefers a decentralized administration, with principals exerting primary control over each school. He is also said to have more of a sensitivity to disadvantaged students than was shown during the latter years of the Dubel administration as the county and its school system have become more racially diverse.
If this hasn't been the best year for Bob Dubel, he has had a good 16 years running one of the largest public school systems in the United States. And his career in education is not finished. He will begin teaching school administration next fall at the University of Maryland at College Park. Here's hoping that the next school year will be kinder than the one past, and that Dr. Bob enjoys many more good years.