Education board picks Sondheim as new president

July 30, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

The Maryland State Board of Education unanimously elected 90-year-old Walter Sondheim as its president yesterday.

An influential businessman and public servant for more than five nTC decades, Sondheim had staunchly denied any interest in the position. But he accepted graciously, thanking fellow board members for their confidence in him.

"It's a nice thing to do to an old man," he said.

He adjourned the meeting 10 minutes ahead of schedule, saying with a chuckle, "God help you all for what you did to me."

Sondheim replaces Rose LaPlaca, a board member for eight years who cannot be reappointed.

Edward Andrews, a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park and former Montgomery County schools superintendent, was re-elected vice president. The president and vice president serve one-year terms.

Sondheim, who is beginning his fourth year on the state board, was first appointed to the Baltimore school board in 1948 and led the desegregation of city schools in the mid-1950s.

"I don't intend to be out on the hustings, setting policy," Sondheim said shortly after his election. "With a strong superintendent, this is more of a traffic cop's role."

LaPlaca said the job "can be as demanding as you make it," although she felt sure other board members would share the load with Sondheim. "No one wants to tax him," she said.

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick praised the choice of Sondheim. "I think Walter Sondheim is a Maryland treasure. He is the architect of school reform. It is fitting that he should be board president at a time when we have one of the most sustained school reform efforts in the country," she said.

Grasmick was referring to the Governor's Commission on School Performance, which Sondheim chaired and which issued a 1989 report laying the groundwork for school reform.

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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