New kids in class School superintendents: New chiefs with bold ideas will have brief span to implement them.

August 23, 1996

"SUPERINTENDENT of schools" conjures up an image for many of a patrician educator who has shepherded his system since the invention of chalk. That's an old sterotype. The big mahogany door with the smoked glass leading to the superintendent's suite has been replaced with one that revolves.

Of the 24 school superintendents in Maryland, only one-third held their posts four years ago. Some systems have even turned over a couple of superintendents in that span.

Four systems welcome new chiefs this fall: Jeffery N. Grotsky in Harford, Jack Donald Dale in Frederick, Carl Denny Roberts in Cecil and Jon Andes in Worcester; the latter two are both former Harford administrators. Anthony Marchione was also appointed superintendent in Baltimore County a few months ago, but he was interim superintendent during 1995-96.

Dr. Grotsky brings some interesting theories to Harford. Borrowing a page from the "total quality management" philosophy of the corporate world, he wants students and families treated as "customers." While he says he wants the impetus for change to flow from the staff and community, he obviously has his own strong ideas about a direction for the system. He envisions a "culture" in which students sit down with their parents and teachers at the start of the school year, not months into it, to craft an individualized plan. Secondary school students should take the lead in shaping their own curriculum and not just be a silent third-wheel in a pow-wow of adults. To skeptics who scoff that can't be done for 36,000 kids, he replies: "We have no choice."

"Impossible" is also what many say to Dr. Marchione, whose goal is to have every child in Baltimore County's system reading and doing math on a second-grade level by the end of second grade. Whether it's doable is not the point; his is a clear, farsighted objective to close the learning gap when it's easiest to do so.

"Schools are schools, kids are kids, needs are needs," says Harford's Dr. Grotsky. He's right. Obviously, city schools have special ills, but violence, drugs and other social cancers are impeding the business of education everywhere. The new superintendents must hit the ground running: Recent history indicates they will have a short time to make an impact.

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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