Maria Goodloe-Johnson broke historic ground in October 2003 by becoming the first woman and first African-American to serve as superintendent of the Charleston County School District. She experienced both success and disappointment in that high-profile position.

But when Dr. Goodloe-Johnson left Charleston in the summer of 2007 to become superintendent of the Seattle School District, even her harshest critics couldn’t cast credible doubt on her fundamental resolve for closing the wide academic gap between the highest and lowest-achieving public schools in Charleston County.

That legacy endures as many people in the district — and the community — mourn Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, who died of lung cancer Wednesday at age 55.

She left Seattle in 2011, then worked as deputy chancellor for instructional support and educational accountability in Michigan’s Education Achievement System.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, born and raised in Omaha, Neb., drew mixed reviews for her performance as head of Charleston County schools. Yet it’s only fair to recall that she took over a district with serious financial difficulties, which severely restricted options for reform.

Still, she was able to move forward on a “Plan for Excellence” that included a standardized countywide curriculum, special programs for children who had lagged far behind their age group in the classroom, and increased access to early-childhood education.

And she brought her eventual successor, Dr. Nancy McGinley, to Charleston in 2004 as the district’s chief academic officer.

As Dr. McGinley told our reporter Wednesday, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson “was strong and unwavering in her commitment” to the ideal that “all kids deserved a high-quality public education.”

Dr. McGinley is extending that wise focus with a comprehensive literacy program aimed at assuring every child obtains that indispensable building block of learning. That’s a defining mission for public education — and not just in Charleston County.

And that crucial goal is consistent with Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s educational vision, as demonstrated during her tenure as superintendent of Charleston County schools.