Special Issue | July 13, 2023

An Interview with Departing MABE Executive Director, Frances ("Francie") Hughes Glendening

After more than a decade of dedicated service to public education in Maryland, MABE this month bids an affectionate farewell to our retiring team lead, Francie Glendening.

We took a few moments to sit down with Francie to get her thoughts on progress made on her watch while at MABE, highlights and challenges during her tenure, and her plans for the future.

Francie Glendening,

MABE Executive Director


Francie, why did you decide to join MABE? What was your biggest motivation?

I was leading an education nonprofit in DC Public Schools and decided I wanted to return to my home state and secure a position in the public education realm, one that genuinely inspired me. While participating in various meetings at UMBC, I met former Baltimore City School Commissioner Lisa Akchin, who told me MABE was recruiting a new Executive Director and talked with me about the job from her perspective. 

I knew about the Association and definitely was interested in joining its important efforts in this leadership role, so I applied and ultimately was selected. I am extremely grateful to Lisa for bringing this opportunity to my attention, because I feel I was able to work with a talented team of dedicated board members and staff in such worthy efforts serving as a collective champion for excellence in public education.

What would you say has been the most memorable part of your decade at MABE? How about the most inspiring?

The most memorable parts of my time at MABE definitely were navigating the pandemic, and participating in the multi-year journey that ultimately resulted in The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act. A significant portion of this journey was the convening of the Kirwan Commission for more than two years. MABE’s Kirwan Commissioner, Joy Schaefer, also served for part of this time as MABE President. She was an outstanding Kirwan Commission representative for MABE and, in fact, chaired one of the Commission’s four policy groups in addition to leading the Association’s relevant internal committee during this time. (We attempted to ensure Joy was well-supplied with Starbucks during her very busy Kirwan Commission tenure!)

I’d say the most inspiring part of my decade at MABE was observing local boards and individual board members, as well as MABE staff, tirelessly rise to enormous challenges like the pandemic and the creation of the Blueprint. As one example, MABE transitioned to a virtual format for all programs/activities in less than ten days, helping streamline and improve committee meetings, board meetings, Board Service Academies, and MABE's Annual Conference and Annual Business Meeting.

You had several concrete goals when you began leading MABE. How have those been achieved, adjusted, or expanded?

One goal was enhancing the value of membership in the Association for our member boards and individual board members. Another key goal was increasing MABE's fiscal viability and sustainability primarily through increasing non-dues revenue. I also wanted to advance MABE’s profile and participation in the Maryland public education community at all levels through increased communications and marketing, and increase collaboration with education partners throughout the state. Finally, it was important to me to increase and sustain the organization’s impact throughout the Maryland education community.

I believe the organization has made significant progress toward all of these goals over the past decade. That said, progress in any endeavor is fragile and must be a continuing effort.

MABE’s financial position is sound, thanks in part to an increase in non-dues revenue which promises to continue under the leadership of my successor, Milton Nagel. The Association also has made quite a bit of progress regarding what I characterize as organizational infrastructure initiatives, i.e., moving to online registration for MABE activities such as the Annual Conference, Board Service Academies, and LSA seminars.

Another extremely important element has been development and maintenance of an electronic membership data base for individual board member activities. Securing the organization’s technology vulnerability, providing virtual options for all MABE activities, and implementing a new financial software system have been a part of my strategic “wish list.”

If you were to name the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while at MABE, what would that be?

MABE is a member-driven organization, which means that maintaining an awareness of member needs at the Association, local member board, and individual board member levels is vital. Because these needs change with circumstances, MABE staff and our Board of Directors must aspire to anticipate member needs for what we believe lies ahead, in addition to tackling challenges in the current environment.

Can you share your “inside perspective” on what makes MABE unique and valuable?

In my view, it’s largely the staff’s continuous efforts to anticipate member needs and respond as quickly and honestly as possible to member concerns and requests.

What would you say were the most challenging times at MABE over the years?

The pandemic, because it was not anticipated, it totally disrupted student learning (not to mention daily life for an extended period), and its duration was unpredictable. Plus, in addition to affecting the students so much, it also affected local boards, superintendents, school system staff, parents, and literally the entire community. It also led to fiscal uncertainty and related issues for many.

How might you have been influenced by MABE members through the years?

It has been reassuring and inspiring to observe how seriously school board members take their local school board responsibilities. In fact, many times a new school board member will remark that they had no idea of the depth and breadth of the governance responsibilities that local boards and individual members assume. We’ve been able to exchange important information and experiences with each other during both the most challenging times and everyday tasks, and this strength has not only influenced me but meant that I take away valuable learnings that will continue to help me in daily life. For this I am profoundly grateful!


Many people have commented that you’re bound to stay busy in retirement, and some have asked what you plan to focus on. Can you share any concrete plans?

I'll stay busy with several things! For starters, finalizing the sale of my home in University Park and finding a new home in the Annapolis area. Spending much more time with family and friends. Engaging in some consulting. Joining a book club, now that I have more time, and enhancing my exercise regimen which has not been the same since COVID. I may also do a little writing. 

Given your experiences over the past decade, what would you advise leadership at MABE – whether board members or staff – to focus on most in the coming few years?

For the Board, I’d say hire and support a highly competent, dedicated Executive Director for the organization, which the Board has done. Allow the Executive Director to run the Association day-to-day. In conjunction with the new Executive Director, the board should establish realistic goals. Provide regular feedback and consistent support.

For MABE’s Executive Director, I’d advise to support the Association’s highly competent staff and ensure they each have the proper tools and training needed to continue performing their jobs expertly and with tireless enthusiasm, as they have done during my tenure. Remain on “alert status” for member concerns and needs. Be available to members and staff. Embrace new ideas and innovations. Keep the board in the loop with new ideas. Bring the board with you as you forge ahead!

Thank you, Francie, for your dedication, commitment and unflagging support.

Best of luck to you in the many productive years to come!

Click here to reach Francie via email.

Visit Francie tribute photos here.

621 Ridgely Avenue
Suite 300
Annapolis, MD 21401

(410) 841-5414