Superintendent gets good marks


MORE than three-quarters of Howard County's teachers and support personnel who responded to a survey conducted by the teachers union have expressed confidence in the leadership of Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin.

Howard County Education Association's job satisfaction survey for 2004-2005 - the findings of which were released last week at a school board meeting - examined work environment and conditions, leadership and academic issues. About 2,170, or half of the union's membership, responded to the survey this year.

Ninety percent of respondents said they felt successful at work and 82 percent said they are treated like professionals by school administrators.

"Overall, my sense was that there were very positive results, particularly if you look at the trend over the last several years," said Joe Staub, the teachers union president.

Nevertheless, the survey also showed weakness, particularly in the area of teacher workload. About 66 percent of respondents said the amount of paperwork is excessive, while 71 percent indicated too much time is spent on administering standardized tests.

Another major concern was a declining atmosphere of open communication. This year's survey showed that 57 percent of teachers and support staff members believe they can speak openly about issues without fear of repercussions, down from 63 percent last year.

"Our concern there is that if you want to take a school system to the next level of performance, you must involve the staff that's going to be asked to implement new plans and ideas for student achievement," Staub said.

Cousin's approval rating is a stark contrast to the 34 percent of teachers and support staff who expressed confidence in the former superintendent, John R. O'Rourke, whose contract was not renewed by the school board in 2004. The board noted O'Rourke's uncommunicative management skills as reasons for its decision.

Courtney Watson, the school board chairman, said she was pleased with the positive responses to the school system's leadership. She also said the school system will continue to work on areas of concern.

"We worked very hard to include the teachers and staff in the decision making and in creating a positive climate," Watson said. "And we believe the results of the survey show that those efforts are working."

Rock-music lesson

Watson got a lesson on rock music last week when she accompanied her middle school daughter and friends to the Killers' concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

For starters, Watson, 42, did not know who the Killers are. Or for that matter - Keane, Louis XIV, Maximo Park or Regina Spektor.

"The first three bands weren't that bad; normal kind of music that we can actually enjoy," she said. "Finally, Keane. I loved their music. I didn't know I knew them, but I recognized a couple of the songs."

She added, "When Keane was on, I thought it was the Killers."

And then she learned that a concert featuring alternative rock music can be, well, a little rowdy.

"It was so smoky," she said. "Lots and lots of people drinking."

All in all, Watson and two other adult chaperones as well as the youngsters had a good time - even though they left about 10:30 p.m. while the Killers were on stage.

"It wasn't just me," Watson said of the decision to leave early. "It was a group decision."

After all, it was a school night.

Martirano's new job

A school administrator is leaving Howard County to become superintendent of the St. Mary's County school system.

Michael Martirano, who will begin his new job July 1, spent four years in Howard County supervising elementary schools.

"I love the people in Howard County," he said. "It'll make it very difficult to leave, but it's a wonderful opportunity."

Before coming to Howard County in 2002, Martirano was principal of Laurel High School in Prince George's County. Martirano, 46, also was an administrator at several elementary and middle schools in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Martirano, who taught high school math and science, has two education-related master's degrees from the University of Maryland and a doctoral degree from Nova Southeastern University in school management and instructional leadership.

Becoming a school superintendent always has been a goal, Martirano said.

"I want to create one community committed to teaching and learning for all children," he said.

Cousin, Howard's superintendent, praised Martirano's abilities.

"He's well respected and highly thought of, and people in St. Mary's County recognize that," Cousin said. "I know he'll be successful there."

Martirano, who lives in Columbia with his wife, Silvana, has three children.

His oldest daughter, Maria, graduated from Atholton High School this month and will attend the University of Maryland.

They also have a sixth-grader, Vincent, at Lime Kiln Middle School and their youngest, Gina, is a fourth-grader at Clemens Crossing Elementary School.

The family plans to move to St. Mary's County, which has a school system of about 16,500 students.

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