End of the Shilling Era

April 18, 1994

When Carroll school superintendent R. Edward Shilling cleans out his desk in June and retires, he can leave knowing that the school system he managed didn't get waylaid in the wrenching scandals, reorganizations and controversies that have plagued many other school systems in the Baltimore area. Education of children has remained the primary focus.

Mr. Shilling leaves Carroll schools in good shape. Test scores are among the highest in Maryland, the number of high school graduates is increasing and teacher retention is strong. The necessary adjustments have been made to the system's curriculum so that most county students will be able to meet the state's performance standards over time.

Like any superintendent, Mr. Shilling had to be a skillful politician. He was attentive to his various constituents -- parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and the county commissioners. Sometimes, he would stand his ground against the political clamor. Yet in other instances, particularly involving criticism over sex education materials, he would acquiesce to the most vocal opponents. Through it all, he always appeared to be reasonable.

That's not to say his tenure was free of controversy -- often generated as it was by a small, but highly ideological, group of parents. For example, although the Board of Education supported so-called Outcomes-Based Education curriculum during its four years of development, a group of vocal parents was able to create the impression that widespread opposition existed to the program. They dominated the public discussion until Mr. Shilling took the offensive and poked large holes in their arguments. He effectively countered their baseless assertions that the outcomes-based plan was meant to promote deviant sexual agendas, denigrate families and religions and undermine community values.

When Mr. Shilling announced his retirement last week to a room full of school board members, administrators, staff and teachers, some were moved to tears. This outpouring of emotion was in appreciation of the superintendent's deft management style. The audience might also have been shedding a tear for his successor, who may have to labor mightily to keep the system on track and the focus on educating the county's children.

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