Harford schools in transition Keech retirement: County system prospered during superintendent's seven-year tenure.

November 03, 1995

THE ANNOUNCED retirement of Ray R. Keech as Harford County's school superintendent after seven years marks an important passage in the county's educational history.

As the county's growing school population approaches 40,000 pupils, the solution of building new schools is more difficult. State officials are tighter with funds, favoring renovation and expansion of existing facilities over new construction, and the county seems ever less willing to fund an endless building program.

The Keech tenure in Harford saw an average increase of 1,500 students and a new school opening in each of those seven years.

The Michigan native's efforts in obtaining some $50 million in state funds for those projects was a marked accomplishment, appreciated by state legislators, county officials, the Harford school board and not the least, parents.

His was an effective low-profile approach, an educator's appeal, one that worked well in concert with the efforts of other county leaders who shared his objectives.

Student achievement in statewide tests and assessments also showed the education system to be working well, as Harford usually ranked from fourth to sixth among Maryland's 24 jurisdictions. This despite spending less per pupil than most counties. State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick repeatedly cited Harford as a system that gets the most for its dollars.

With new demands for a costly computer technology system in the schools, Harford will be challenged to find the money and effectively plan for implementation, but Dr. Keech has already brought in an experienced coordinator.

His Harford term was not entirely smooth. School construction problems two years ago cast doubt on the administration's planning process, which was revised. Last month, the county's legislative delegation faulted Harford school officials for not moving quickly enough to apply for scarce state construction grants.

But the former music instructor seldom struck a sour note in dealing with the community, whether handling teacher salaries or school budgets or education policies.

As he approaches retirement this June, after 38 years as teacher and administrator, Dr. Keech has earned the respect and appreciation of Harford County for a job well done.

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