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Crossing Party Lines

One of the nation's longest-serving Democratic state schools chiefs has joined the otherwise all-Republican board of directors at the Education Leaders Council.

Nancy S. Grasmick, the superintendent in Maryland since 1991, agreed last week to join the board of the ELC. She said her decision did not reflect any ill will toward the rival Council of Chief State School Officers, and she plans to be active in both organizations.

"I am very interested in connecting with groups on school reform," Ms. Grasmick said in an interview. "We have things to learn."

Nancy S. Grasmick

Ms. Grasmick, one of Maryland's best-known Democratic officials, has known the ELC's chief executive officer, Lisa Graham Keegan, the former state superintendent in Arizona, and others involved with the group, for many years.

The Washington-based ELC was begun in 1995, in part as an alternative to the long-established CCSSO. Before Ms. Grasmick joined, the group had included eight chief state school officers—all Republicans.

But with the appointment of Ms. Keegan in June, the nonprofit organization unveiled an effort to alter its former image as a group of like-minded GOP state schools chiefs. Instead, Ms. Keegan said the group would seek to establish a broader, grassroots membership base and serve as "the nation's premier group of practicing reformers." ("Education Leaders Council Changes Focus, Membership," June 20, 2001.)

Jim Nelson, the Texas commissioner of education and the chairman of the ELC board, praised Ms. Grasmick last week for "a long and distinguished record of working for reform and quality education for all children."

Ms. Keegan described the Maryland chief as "an unapologetic advocate for high standards, rigorous assessment, and strong accountability in education," and called her an outstanding addition to the ELC board.

Vol. 21, Issue 2, Page 20

Published in Print: September 12, 2001, as State Journal

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