SHORTLY AFTER Lillian M. Lowery became Delaware’s education secretary, she brought her staff to Maryland so it could learn firsthand about the work being done by then-state schools superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick that made Maryland a leader in education. The fact that Ms. Lowery saw an affinity with the woman she’s now been tapped to follow is a promising sign that Maryland will continue to pursue critical school reform.
The Maryland State Board of Education will take official action Tuesday to appoint Ms. Lowery to the important job of state superintendent of schools. Ms. Lowery, Delaware education secretary since 2009, was recruited during a search to find a replacement for Ms. Grasmick, who retired in 2011 after 20 years; interim state superintendent Bernard J. Sadusky has been serving for the last 10 months.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) gave her the highest marks, telling us: “One thing she never lost sight of is that while adults may argue, her job was always to focus on what is best for the kids.” Among her accomplishments was spearheading the effort that put in place reforms of student testing, curriculum and teacher accountability. Under her leadership, Delaware became one of the first states to win coveted Race to the Top funds. Particularly noteworthy have been her efforts to boost successful charter schools and her use of data to drive student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Prior to her stint as education secretary, Ms. Lowery was superintendent of a Delaware school district that faced a $26 million financial crisis. Her able handling of the situation, which was a decisive factor in her selection as education secretary, showcased her ability to bring people together.
It’s an ability Ms. Lowery will no doubt need as she takes over Maryland education at a time of transition. Among the changes facing the state are implementation of a new curriculum, new tests and a new teacher evaluation system. “She has just the right mind-set,” state school board member Kate Walsh told the Baltimore Sun. “She is committed to reform issues. . . . She is very open to doing things differently.”