Colorful, student-made thank-you cards and nearly 100 awards, recognitions and certificates of appreciation were displayed at the headquarters of the Baltimore County school board last night as Robert Y. Dubel marked the end of his 16 years as superintendent of county schools.
The modest open house at Greenwood mansion gave Dr. Dubel, 67, a chance to bid farewell to his staff and county educators. Financed entirely by donations from schools, individuals and education associations, the party signaled the end of the longest tenure of any superintendent currently serving in the 100 largest school districts in America.
More than 1,000 teachers, administrators, friends and county residents stood on line to shake the retiring superintendent's hand and offer thanks and best wishes.
"I'm overwhelmed," Dr. Dubel said. "I thought maybe 50 people would come by after work. . . . It's just very moving."
Rosanne Reimer, assistant principal at Stoneleigh Elementary, said she felt she had to stop by.
"They don't make too many like him," she said. "He's certainly a credit to the profession."
Barbara Ann Ellis, assistant principal at Villa Cresta Elementary, said saying good-bye was as important as recognizing Dr. Dubel's accomplishments.
"We need to say thank you," she said.
Dr. Dubel came to the county school system in 1968 as the assistant superintendent for staff and community relations. He served as deputy superintendent from 1971 to 1976 and was appointed superintendent in 1976.
His retirement from the county system does not end his career in education, however. He will teach school administration this fall at the University of Maryland at College Park. At a news conference Monday, Dr. Dubel said he was comfortable with his retirement.
"I'm totally at peace with the concept," he said. "Sixteen years is a long time. . . . I think that the time was right for me to pass this on to a younger person."
That person, former Wichita, Kan., School Superintendent Stuart David Berger, 49, succeeds Dr. Dubel today. Mr. Berger will hold a special board meeting at Greenwood tonight, when he is expected to announce new appointments.
At various times during his long tenure as leader of the nation's 25th-largest school district, Dr. Dubel had been described as controversial, autocratic and compassionate.
Carmella Veit, president of the PTA Council of Baltimore County had described him as a "visionary," while Edward Veit, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County and Mrs. Veit's husband, had called Dr. Dubel "a good advocate" for the school system.
Dr. Dubel implemented anti-drug programs and programs to teach values and ethics. Both have been praised and imitated nationwide. He also helped maintain a Students Against Driving Drunk presence in the county.
But praise for Dr. Dubel has not been universal. Members of the black community had charged that he was slow to implement the school system's plan to raise minority achievement and participation.
And members of the Maryland Food Committee criticized the superintendent's policy of not automatically providing free or reduced-price breakfasts at every school that has enough low-income students to qualify for federal aid. The county school system is the only one in Maryland that does not do so.
In preparing for last night's party, Judith H. Edgar, executive assistant for the superintendent, said she originally had planned to throw a large dinner party for Dr. Dubel, and had contemplated an event for employees at Martin's West.
But Dr. Dubel, aware of the economic problems facing the county, didn't like the idea of a grand good-bye, Ms. Edgar said. In fact, when budget cuts forced the furlough of county employees, Dr. Dubel called off all party plans.
However, numerous phone calls from county employees asking about a farewell for the superintendent convinced Ms. Edgar that even a small open house would be better than nothing. Dr. Dubel was emphatic, she said, that there should be no admission charge to any party.
With the hopes of raising about $1,000 to provide cookies and punch for the expected guests, Ms. Edgar started calling school employees and Greenwood staff members, asking if they would be willing to contribute.
Her calls prompted contributions from 15 individuals, 47 schools and five organizations, totaling approximately $2,400. County music teachers who perform as a string quartet reduced their fee to play at the gathering, and the caterer provided cake, punch, cookies, fruit, cheese, vegetables and dip at cost, Ms. Edgar said.