Ehrlich names ex-Coppin head secretary of higher education

But he says appointment of Burnett is in acting role

December 09, 2003|By Alec Macgillis | Alec Macgillis,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named the former president of Coppin State College as his secretary of higher education yesterday - but decided to make the appointment on an acting, not a permanent basis.

Calvin W. Burnett, 71, was president of Coppin for 32 years before retiring in March. As the interim higher-education secretary, he will lead the Maryland Higher Education Commission, a 75-person agency that coordinates policy among private and public colleges and administers financial aid programs, among other duties.

Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said yesterday it was unclear why Ehrlich decided to make the appointment a temporary one after his office had indicated last week that Burnett would be the official pick for the job. A search will continue for a permanent secretary, she said, and that could end up being Burnett or someone else.

Word last week of Burnett's impending appointment caught many higher education officials off guard because Ehrlich has said he wants to shake up the agency, which many view as lacking in direction. While widely admired for his loyalty to Coppin, Burnett is not known as an aggressive reformer.

Burnett replaces John A. Sabatini Jr., an assistant secretary who had been filling in as the interim head since the resignation this year of Karen R. Johnson, the secretary under former Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Ehrlich wanted Burnett as the interim leader instead of Sabatini, DeLeaver said, because "he has a comfortable working relationship" with him.

DeLeaver said it was unclear how long Burnett's interim tenure would last before a permanent secretary is named.

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