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Howard County school board reaches deal to pay Martirano after Foose's departure

The Howard County school board announced that Michael J. Martirano, a former state superintendent of West Virginia schools will become the acting superintendent of Howard County schools.
The Howard County school board announced that Michael J. Martirano, a former state superintendent of West Virginia schools will become the acting superintendent of Howard County schools. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)

The Howard County school board has agreed to pay its new acting superintendent a pro-rated salary equal to $270,000 a year at least through June.

The board also agreed Thursday to reimburse Michael Martirano up to $120 a day for temporary housing, give him an $800 monthly car allowance, and pay expenses for his computer and cellphone, according to the contract.

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A former state superintendent in West Virginia, Martirano was immediately selected as the acting chief of the Howard County school dystem when Renee Foose resigned Tuesday. Foose had been superintendent of the high-achieving school district for five years.

Three new members won election to the seven-person school board last year, creating a majority opposed to Foose. The new board passed sweeping measures to expand its authority and Foose sued the panel in January, contending that it had passed illegal measures to undermine her authority.

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The two sides had been negotiating the terms of Foose's departure, officially a "retirement," for months. The board agreed this week to pay Foose $1.13 million in "post-termination payments," in addition to $171,000 for her retirement, $278,000 for her pension and $65,000 for her unused days off. The board also agreed to provide Foose lifelong health benefits equal to those received by county schools retirees.

The separation package worth nearly $1.65 million exceeds what it would have cost the board to keep Foose on for the three years left in her contract, under which she was earning $273,000 a year.

Under the settlement signed Tuesday, Foose agreed to drop her lawsuit against the board, and both sides agreed to cease making disparaging comments about each other. The payout promptly drew criticism and some members of the County Council questioned how the school board could afford paying two superintendents.

Board Chairwoman Cynthia Vaillancourt said a prolonged legal fight with Foose would have cost the district even more. She said the payments to Foose would likely come from money earmarked for paying down debt in the school district's health and dental fund.

Martirano, 58, previously worked in Maryland as superintendent of St. Mary's County schools and director of elementary education for Howard County schools. Although he was hired to serve as acting superintendent through June 30, he has said he would like to be considered for the permanent position.

The board is expected to decide at its May 18 meeting whether to name him interim superintendent for another year; award him a full four-year contract as superintendent; or name someone else to run the school system.

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