NO ONE SHOULD misunderstand the mission of longtime educator Robert E. Schiller, who became the interim chief executive of Baltimore City public schools yesterday. He will have plenty on his plate -- from getting the system of 108,000 students ready for a new academic year in September to negotiating a new contract with unionzed teachers. But his real job is to be the tough guy who does the dirty work so that when a permanent CEO is appointed, that new chief does not have to squander initial goodwill by making necessary but unpopular moves.
As the state school superintendent in Michigan and a deputy superintendent in Louisiana and Delaware, Mr. Schiller has shown that he demands high standards and does not tolerate slackers. He has his work cut out for him in Baltimore City, where he has to complete his task by Oct. 31, although his assignment can be extended until Jan. 1. (By state law, he cannot be considered for the permanent job).
A tough troubleshooter like Mr. Schiller may be exactly what the troubled Baltimore City school system needs to show that the recent court-brokered consent decree and state intervention herald a new day and a new way of dealing with the intractable problems of education, discipline and budgets. From the very start, the message has to go out loud and clear that this is not business as usual.
The newly reconstituted and more independent city school board selected Mr. Schiller from among 25 applicants for the interim position. The key qualification was a proven track record in handling stubborn management problems. Mr. Schiller was among the three finalists; those who have worked with him do not doubt he has what it takes to start the Baltimore school system on the road to recovery.
An interim CEO's job is a difficult one. He must merge the currently separate general education and special education services into a single, coordinated school management system;
establish and give strong support to an active parent advisory board and replace a high number of administrative staff members who have retired or departed during the transition.
We welcome Mr. Schiller and wish him the best in trying circumstances. His job is not thankless. If he performs it well, he will have the gratitude of all Baltimoreans.
Pub Date: 6/27/97