Thank You, Lillian

April 20th, 2012

Category: News

This morning in Delaware we got news that I was hoping not to get for at least a couple more years.  Our own Lillian Lowery, Delaware’s Secretary of Education, has taken a job as the new Secretary of Education in Maryland. 

On a personal and professional level, I will miss her deeply.  She is one of those amazing people that can walk into any room and have immediate rapport and respect.  She earned that respect by making tough calls over and over again with thoughtfulness and grace.  She navigated the politics effortlessly, never letting the nonsense of the adults shake her focus on doing right by Delaware’s kids. As one of the people that likely gave her heartburn from time-to-time, I know this first-hand.

Much more will be written about her in the days that follow, but here’s my take.  In 2006 she came to Christina School District—Delaware’s largest and most challenged— lifted it out of a $26M sinkhole and put it back on track.  Just two years later as State Secretary of Education, she took the helm of the state’s 19 school districts and 22 charter schools and was able to galvanize everyone around a common plan, positioning Delaware as a national leader and number one in the federal Race to the Top Competition, which generated $119M for the state.  Two years after that, she led the effort to help the state win another $50M for early childhood education in a second, very competitive federal competition.  (Per capita, she likely generated more competitive federal funding than any chief state school officer in the country in that time window.) 

In short, in just three years, she worked with Governor Jack Markell’s administration, the schools, the private sector, and community leaders to generate the resources, the plans and the teams to execute the state’s ambitious plan for Delaware’s public schools.  In doing so, she gave generously to all of us, and now we bear the onus – private and public players alike – to not miss a beat and to deliver on the promises made. 

As far as the future is concerned, it is suggested that Secretary Lowery will stay in place until her replacement has been confirmed, which is due to take place by June 30, 2012 when the legislature lets out.  It is hard to imagine who might attempt to fill her very stylish shoes, but I hope the administration chooses the best possible candidate for the job, in-state or out.

Governor O’Malley and the Terrapins are very fortunate indeed.  And while we know that Lillian will be just across the state line, we’ll miss her all the same.  She led with grace, humility, and heart, and we thank her for it.

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Paul Herdman