Hogan Makes Deadline for Naming Members to Education Reform Oversight Panel

The Maryland State House. Photo from stock.adobe.com.

After imploring the committee charged with selecting nominees to oversee the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan to send him a new list of names to choose from, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) appointed seven members from the committee’s original list by the deadline Friday. 

The members of the Accountability and Implementation Board selected by Hogan are: 

  • Isiah “Ike” Leggett, former Montgomery County executive and currently a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, who was appointed to the regents by Hogan.
  • Mara Doss, the associate vice president for teaching, learning and student success at Prince George’s Community College.
  • Fagan Harris, chief executive officer of Baltimore Corps, a nonprofit that recruits talented professionals and connects them to leadership opportunities.
  • William “Brit” Kirwan, the chair of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, whose policy recommendations make up the foundation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
  • Joseph Manko, the education program officer for the Abell Foundation and previously an elementary school principal in Baltimore City Public Schools for 10 years.
  • Laura Stapleton, the interim dean of the University of Maryland, College Park College of Education and a professor in human development and quantitative methodology.
  • Jennifer Lynch, the director of educational partnerships for Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) and previously an elementary school principal in Baltimore City Public Schools for five years.

The AIB will be responsible for ensuring that the state and local jurisdictions fully implement the multi-billion-dollar Blueprint education reforms, which aim to close student achievement gaps and transform Maryland’s education system over the next decade.

To mitigate concerns about the lack of diversity of the AIB, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) wrote in a letter to Shanaysha Sauls, the chair of the nominating committee, Friday that he recommends that the AIB create “an advisory panel of sufficient size to incorporate all voices.” Sauls said in a phone interview Friday that she thought the advisory panel was a good idea.

“Although it is impossible for a 7-member board to be fully representative of 24 jurisdictions and the diversity of all Maryland residents, the confusion sowed by the letters the Nominating Committee has received around representation creates unnecessary doubt in the process,” Ferguson wrote. He acknowledged that the nominating committee was limited by the applications it received, which were mostly from those who reside in Montgomery County and Baltimore. 

Hogan said he reluctantly appointed the seven members to the AIB, as required by law. 

“While I continue to have strong objections regarding the lack of diversity, in light of the commitments you have made to remedy those concerns, I am complying with my statutory requirement to appoint members to the AIB,” Hogan wrote in a letter to Senate President Bill Ferguson Friday. 

“The AIB is charged with overseeing the implementation of billions in education spending and is granted plenary authority over education in Maryland. The scope of its responsibility is greater than even that of the State Board of Education. In order to succeed and achieve these equitable outcomes it’s imperative that the AIB has membership with a deep understanding of the diverse student population in Maryland,” Hogan wrote. 

The members of the AIB are subject to Senate confirmation. Ferguson said in a statement that he is “confident that the appointees selected will ensure that school districts in every corner of the State will be supported and accountable in their implementation of the Blueprint, taking individualized community needs into consideration.” 

Hogan, Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) will also jointly appoint a chair of the panel. 

Harry Preston V, a Baltimore City Public Schools teacher, and Joshua Starr, the chief executive officer of Phi Delta Kappa International, a nonprofit membership organization for K-12 educators and previously the superintendent of Montgomery County Schools from 2011 to 2015, were the two nominees who were not chosen. 

“We thank Hogan for making the appointments today. Time is of the essence and there’s a lot of work to do over the next few months,” Sauls said on behalf of the nominating committee. 

“Despite it all, I’m proud of the fact that legislators from both sides of the aisles across the state of Maryland are actually standing together behind children,” Sauls continued. “I’m happy about the fact that people are focused on children.” 

Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), the vice chair of the nominating committee, said he was glad that Hogan carried out his legal responsibility in selecting members to the AIB by his deadline Friday. “I look forward to the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. It’s too long in coming and I’m excited about the prospects, so I’m glad Hogan fulfilled his responsibility,” he said. 

Last month, the committee charged with selecting nominees for the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) sent nine candidates to Hogan for him to choose from by Oct. 1. 

A week later, Hogan asked the nominating committee to provide him a new slate of potential appointees that “accurately reflect[s] our student population,” expressing concern of a lack of geographical and racial diversity. 

The Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus had sent a letter to Hogan, expressing disappointment with the lack of representation for Latino communities among the nominees selected. Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) also expressed concerns about the lack of representation for Prince George’s County, the second-largest jurisdiction in the state. 

Hogan further decried the lack of representation from the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland or any rural jurisdiction. 

But the nominating committee declined to send a new list of potential appointees to Hogan, stating that members had fulfilled their duty to select qualified nominees who to the extent practicable, represent the diversity of the state. This led to a series of Republican lawmakers representing rural parts of the state to join Hogan in imploring the nominating committee to reconsider its decision. 

“Instead of thoughtfully addressing these concerns, the committee’s leaders sought a legal opinion to justify their inaction — attempting to use the letter of the law to blatantly violate the spirit of the law,” Hogan wrote in letter to Ferguson Friday. 

According to the Blueprint legislation, the AIB shall consist of individuals who “reflect, to the extent practicable, the geographic racial, ethnic cultural, and gender diversity of the State.”

Sauls said that the nominating committee was always “action-oriented, thoughtful and intentional. We never slowed down in the very short timeframe we had to get this done.” After receiving 43 applications on time, “this is the result and we’re proud of it,” she said. 

The main responsibilities of the AIB include creating an implementation plan, holding the state and local governments accountable to the plan and evaluating the results of Blueprint reforms against their intended outcomes.

Now the AIB has one month to hire staff and submit a report to the governor and the General Assembly on the progress made on the implementation of the Blueprint so far and any recommendations for legislative changes by Nov. 1. The AIB also must develop a master Blueprint implementation plan by Feb. 15. 

“We’re very happy that the governor made his decision within the 30 day deadline,” said Shamoyia Gardiner, executive director of Strong Schools Maryland, a grass-roots organization advocating for the Blueprint. 

“We are really looking forward to learning more about and working with the members of the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board. We will be holding them accountable to meeting metrics for underrepresented student groups across the state of Maryland.” 

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