New West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano made some grand statements during his formal introduction to the public this week. If he makes it even halfway to the goals he projected, many in the state will be thrilled.
"We will make West Virginia the top state in education," Martirano said. "We will provide every child with a world-class education and make certain they are college and career ready."
In a state that, for many years, has been saved from being bottom-of-the-barrel in education rankings only by Mississippi, that will be quite a trick. But, Martirano's optimism inspires hope. Perhaps he will, indeed, be the kind of leader who prompts educators and administrators across the state to step up their games.
In fact, Martirano said his first task would be to ensure the highest-quality teachers are educating our kids.
"We won't compromise our standards of only accepting the very best and highly effective teachers in our classrooms," he said.
Perhaps this also means Martirano is willing to show entrenched but ineffective teachers the door.
When he leaves his post as superintendent in St. Mary's County, Maryland, to tackle statewide leadership in West Virginia, Martirano will see a more-than-15 times increase in the number of students under his watch. That figure alone could lead some to wonder whether he understands the magnitude of the challenge ahead of him.
But, for now, the hope is that he does, and that he is sincere in his desire to pull the public school system in West Virginia out of the depths to which it has sunk. Martirano will need the cooperation of teachers - and their unions - local administrators, and every county superintendent. If those folks are not willing to entertain the notion that Martirano's lofty goals can be reached, he will have a very tough road ahead of him.