Hickey Makes the Grade HOWARD COUNTY

March 01, 1993

Where would magazines be without their "best of" lists and their "Man/Woman/Person/Thing of the Year" awards? These regular-as-clockwork honors are as much a part of the magazine biz as headache-inducing perfume ads and loose subscription cards that end up as litter.

Time, for example, has its Man of the Year; Sports Illustrated its Sportsman of the Year. The February issue of Executive Education magazine brought us its list of -- are you ready? -- "100 of North America's best and brightest school executives."

OK, so it doesn't glide off the tongue the way "Sportsman of the Year" does. Still, it sounds like a pretty big deal, and Maryland can boast that four of its local school superintendents are on the Executive Education list.

Problem is, these magazine honors can be the kiss of death, as with the notorious curse of SI cover subjects. But more on that aspect later.

Executive Education selected the honorees on the basis of their leadership, effectiveness in improving student performance, implementation of school system reforms, human relations skills and ability to work with communities and politicians.

Maryland's fab four superintendents are Howard County's Michael Hickey; Baltimore County's Stuart Berger, named for his work as the head of Wichita, Kan., schools, his post prior to arriving in Towson last year; Frederick County's Noel Farmer, and Wicomico County's Evelyn Holman.

Mr. Hickey, the Howard school chief since 1984, was singled out for helping the system develop "a strong instructional program. . . based on shared planning and decision making at the school board."

For their part, Frederick countians can take special pride in the fact that both Noel Farmer and his predecessor, Dr. Berger, made the list.

As for that kiss of death, we happen to recall the fate of a local government official who also was honored by a national trade publication. A few years back, Baltimore County's Dennis Rasmussen was named the nation's "best county executive" by City and State magazine. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Rasmussen was soundly defeated in his quest for a second term. So much for being the "best."

The Rasmussen case suggests that the four local school superintendents should be proud of their honor -- but maybe a little wary of it, too.

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