Martirano sets goals for schools

CHARLESTON – The new state superintendent of schools is looking to improve student performance and the graduation rate while creating a good environment for students to work in.

Michael Martirano was recently named by the West Virginia Board of Education as the new state superintendent of schools.

Martirano is wrapping up his obligations to the St. Mary’s County Public Schools in Maryland where he has served as its superintendent since June 2005. He expects to be on the job in Charleston by September.

Martirano has been in education for over 30 years, starting as a math/science teacher at the middle school level and working his way up to becoming a vice principal and principal and then moving on to central office positions. He was the director of school administration with Howard County (Maryland) Public Schools for three years where he was responsible for supervising and managing the operation of 39 schools, and was responsible for evaluating the performance of each principal.

He has been the longest serving superintendent in St. Mary’s County Public Schools.

“I am very proud in that we have improved the student graduation rate,” he said.

His district went from an 84 percent graduation rate to 92 percent during his time as superintendent. He is hoping to be able to work and improve the graduation rate for schools across West Virginia.

The graduation rate for the state was 76.45 percent in the 2011-12 school year, according to No Child Left Behind data.

“Student achievement has been the driver during my entire career,” Martirano said. “I am a teacher foremost.

“My roots are understanding schools, teachers and students.”

He is originally from Frostburg, Md., and had spent time in some of the border counties of West Virginia.

“I know West Virginia well,” he said.

Right now, Martirano has been learning about the state school systems. He has been impressed with the state board of education in its values and what it expects in regards to education.

Improving student achievement is something that every school and district is always working on.

“We have some work to do,” he said of how things can always been done to work on improving achievement.

Part of that is having the best teachers in place in a student-centered system.

“Everyone does their part to improve the lives of students,” Martirano said. “I am going in to this with great excitement and enthusiasm.

“This will be a great opportunity to help the students of West Virginia.”

He wants to start by building meaningful partnership relationships with stakeholders who can assist in the educational process of the young people in West Virginia. Martirano also wants assessments done of students’ growth to track their progress.

“I want to ensure that all students are reading on grade level by the end of grade three,” he said. “Ensuring literacy at this grade level is critical to the future academic success of our students.”

Martirano also wants to make sure students have access to new technologies to learn and become proficient in the global economy.

“I want to be closing the gap in what students need,” he said. “Students need a 21st Century vision plan.

“Student achievement needs to remain a focal point.”

With the emergence of the state’s growing natural gas industry, more focus is needed on certain skills to make sure students will be able to be more competitive for these jobs when the time comes.

“We need to understand what the job needs are in our state and ensure that our schools our producing students with the skills needed to address the job needs of the state of West Virginia,” Martirano said.

Many people from the state have reached out to him about their hopes for the future of education in West Virginia.

“Since my appointment, my Twitter account has received 9,153 views,” he said. “I have received over 300 plus cards, letters, emails and text messages sending me congratulatory and welcoming words.

“These have come from students, teachers, principals, superintendents, staff, parents, community members, business leaders, higher education officials and elected officials.”

Because of this outreach from people all over the state, Martirano is getting an outstanding first impression of the people of West Virginia.

“I am excited to work with people who have a great passion and desire to work collaboratively to improve the educational quality for all young people in West Virginia,” he said. “I have been so impressed with the kindness and encouraging words that have come my way.

“It has reinforced that I made a great decision to accept the offer from the State Board of Education to serve as the next State Superintendent of Schools. I am honored and humbled.”