By Peta Richkus.
Governor Hogan has provided some notable leadership during this coronavirus crisis. But the failures of his agencies, including the MD State Department of Education (MSDE), are also Larry Hogan’s responsibility.
State Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon, who had announced in December 2019 her plans to step down in June, seems to be in over her head. Never mind that tens of thousands of Maryland’s public school students haven’t made the transition to distance learning despite Herculean efforts by their teachers and educators to connect with them. In some Maryland jurisdictions, more than 1 in 4 public school students have not connected to their schools for instruction. Of 21 criteria outlined in “Remote Learning Guidance from State Education Agencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A First Look,” by MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab, Maryland had met only three by March 31, putting Maryland dead last.
Then there are the 3,700 unpaid providers who have been providing day care services for nearly 27,000 children of first responders and are owed millions from the state. It seems there is never a plan from MSDE for anything.
There’s certainly no announced plan for addressing the education gaps currently developing during the school shutdown for when Maryland’s schools do eventually reopen. And Salmon’s remarks to the media and during a recent Covid-19 briefing come across as completely disengaged and lacking in any real understanding or empathy.
It seems the initial reservations of some MD State Board of Education members about Salmon’s lack of large systems experience were valid. (Dr. Salmon spent a decade as the superintendent in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore and several years in a small suburban system in New York.)
Dr. Salmon’s limitations have become glaring – and unacceptable – in the face of this crisis.
If Superintendent Salmon isn’t up to the job, Governor Hogan is responsible to do something.
Peta Richkus is a retired State employee. MD Secretary of General Services, Jan 1999 – Jan 2003; Commissioner, Port of Baltimore, MD Port Administration, Jul 2008 – Jan 2014.