Martirano gets off to a fast start [Editorial]

Howard County Times

With a one-year contract extension in place through June 2018, Howard County interim schools superintendent Michael Martirano is taking charge, not acting like a placeholder for whoever gets hired full time next year.

Martirano, who replaced embattled superintendent Renee Foose the first week in May, began last month to put his imprint on the administration with decisive moves to address previous violations of the Maryland Public Information Act and comprehensively restructure staffing.

Martirano, the 2009 Maryland Superintendent of the Year when overseeing schools in St. Mary's County, is putting a strong emphasis on transparency, an issue that dogged Foose throughout her tenure. He announced the school system will create a website that documents and makes public all requests made to administrators through the Maryland Public Information Act.

The act provides the right of citizens to access and obtain government records that are considered "disclosable." Foose's administration was considered so dismissive of public requests that the ombudsman in the Office of the Maryland Attorney General conducted a review that found county public schools unlawfully denied requests or told citizens records simply did not exist.

The plan for the website publicly documenting requests is so obvious and beneficial, it should have been in place for years.

As part of the staff restructuring, Martirano, in collaboration with the school board, has moved to create a system in which administrative leaders will remain with students and parents from elementary school through middle and high school, calling it a "birth-through-graduation continuum."

Instead of being responsible for just one stage of a student's school career, community superintendents in regions divided into clusters will know from beginning to end a student's strengths and needs, creating not only continuity but the opportunity to foster deeper relationships with parents.

Parents sending kids from middle school to high school won't have to start from scratch getting to know who oversees the schools.

Martirano, in his time in St. Mary's County, had a reputation of improving student performance and implementing programs that closed achievement gaps. He came to Howard County after leaving his position as superintendent of schools in West Virginia, a state with a legislature that has been cutting funding for education.

We appreciate Martirano coming in and immediately addressing some of the biggest complaints about Foose's time in charge. Considering he could seek to stay well beyond the one-year contract he has, creating goodwill and transparency with the community is an excellent start.

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