O'Malley nominates four to state school board

Governor did not use feelings toward superintendent as litmus test, spokesman says

March 28, 2007|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Sun Reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley named his first four nominees to the state Board of Education yesterday, ones that may be crucial in deciding whether state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick keeps her job.

O'Malley nominated two college administrators, one from Prince George's and one from Allegany County, a former president of the Montgomery County Council and an administrator with a Hispanic college organization.

The state school board appoints the superintendent. If O'Malley wants to get rid of Grasmick, he will need a board that is compliant.

An O'Malley spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese, said that the governor had met with all of the nominees who were selected and that there had been no Grasmick litmus test. Instead, he said, the nominees were chosen "because they share his vision for improving public education. ... The status quo is not acceptable."

O'Malley has made it clear he would like to see the departure of Grasmick, who has held her job for more than a decade through four governors. Grasmick and O'Malley clashed when she attempted to take over failing schools last year in Baltimore.

The current board members were appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., although three of them were originally appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who held office before Ehrlich.

There are about 18 months left in Grasmick's contract, and it will fall to a new state board to decide whether to extend it.

In addition, the new school board will decide next year whether to require high school seniors in 2009 pass a series of tests to graduate.

Grasmick has overseen the conception and implementation of the exams during the past decade and supports making them a graduation requirement. But there is growing concern from groups around the state as the date for the test to take effect gets closer. O'Malley has not taken a position on the issue.

Three of the nominees were are to replace members of the board whose terms are expiring in June. The members leaving include president Edward L. Root, who was originally appointed by Glendening. Calvin D. Disney, a vice president of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. in Baltimore, and Maria C. Torres-Queral, the first Hispanic to be appointed to the board, are also leaving.

But O'Malley also decided to replace a fourth board member, Tonya Miles from Prince George's County, who was appointed by Ehrlich for a term that began in July.

Miles was never confirmed by the state Senate and therefore could be removed before her term expired. O'Malley's nominees have to be confirmed by the state Senate. Their terms would start July 1.

Traditionally, the state Senate gives a new governor the opportunity to retain a new appointment or substitute one of his own.

When asked why O'Malley decided to replace Miles, Abbruzzese said the "governor has the authority to select members who agree with his philosophy."

Charlene Dukes, vice president for student services at Prince Georges' Community College and the mother of public school children, will fill the remaining three years of Miles' term.

The other nominations include Blair Ewing, a former president of the Montgomery County Council and Montgomery County school board member. He is teaching part time at Montgomery College and has worked as a senior executive for the Justice Department.

Mary Kay Finan, an associate professor at Frostburg State University, lives in Cumberland.

Rosa Garcia, the fourth nominee, is the director of legislative affairs for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities in Washington. She also has a background in college admissions and lives in Silver Spring.

The governor also nominated Renford G. Freemantle, a junior at High Point High School in Beltsville, to serve a one-year term as the student representative.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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