Howard educator morale, confidence up in annual union survey

Howard County schools Superintendent Michael Martirano, listens to a discussion among students during a meeting of Hammond High School's Student Leadership Cadre at the Columbia school
Howard County schools Superintendent Michael Martirano, listens to a discussion among students during a meeting of Hammond High School's Student Leadership Cadre at the Columbia school (Doug Kapustin/BSMG file)

Howard County educators reported an increase in morale and the highest-ever levels of confidence in school system leadership in the annual teachers union survey.

More than 92 percent of educators expressed confidence in the leadership exhibited by the superintendent, up from 10.8 percent last year, according to the results of the Howard County Education Association job satisfaction survey, released last week.


Likewise, 84.6 percent of educators feel good about the leadership exhibited by the board of education, up from 66.5 percent last year.

Those metrics “are at the highest level ever measured in this survey,” according to a summary of the results.


The survey is the first conducted since the acrimonious departure of previous superintendent Renee Foose, who resigned last spring after months of public feuding with the school board.

The board agreed to pay nearly $1.65 million in salary and benefits to persuade Foose to retire, along with lifelong health benefits equal to those received by retirees of Howard County schools.

Interim Superintendent Michael J. Martirano stepped in last May, promising to bring an air of collaboration to the school district.

The resulting confidence surge is likely partially due to the novelty of new leadership, but the percentage is impressive even among newcomers, said Colleen Morris, HCEA president.

“Dr. Foose’s confidence rating her first year here was 74 percent,” Morris said. “So 92.7 percent is high, even among new superintendents. It’s a vast difference from last year.”

School officials said they were pleased with the results and would work to build on them next year.

“Since he arrived, Dr. Martirano has put great emphasis on rebuilding trust through strengthening relationships. We believe that, through his leadership and that of the Board of Education, we have far stronger relationships with our families, community partners, and local and state elected leaders,” school spokesman Brian Bassett said via email. “This survey shows very positive trends that we will work to keep improving each year.”

Morale also increased, with 66.3 percent of respondents feeling good about their workplace compared to 53 percent last year. Morris said that was probably at least partially also due to the change in leadership.

“I think people are excited about the change. Leadership obviously sets the example, so that goes down to principals as well,” she said. “We have seen some changes in principals, in the way that they communicate and deal with staff, since Dr. Martirano has come in.”

Still, there’s room for improvement, Morris noted. While overall morale increased throughout the district, individual schools reported lower levels of contentment.

“Overall morale in elementary schools is 70 percent, for example, but I’ve got schools at 22 and 18 percent,” Morris said. “We can do better.”

Bassett agreed.


“There is room for improvement and by no means will anybody take the results of this survey as a reason to coast, but it’s a good snapshot of where staff morale was when the survey was conducted,” he said.

More than 3,300 educators, support staff and counselors participated in this year’s survey, about 45 percent of the 7,300 eligible employees.

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