Ashton Marra Published

Martirano Called Visionary Leader W.Va. Needs

Michael Martirano

West Virginia got a glimpse of its newly appointed superintendent of schools Tuesday when Dr. Michael Martirano was introduced to a crowd of state employees and members of the media.

The appointment comes more than year into Governor Tomblin’s mission to strengthen public education in the state.

“A visionary. A transformational leader. A person who could be the voice for education in West Virginia,” Board President Gayle Manchin said when introducing him to the crowded room at the Capitol.

Martirano’s hiring comes after a year long, nationwide search that cost the state some $40,000.

Martirano is coming to West Virginia from St. Mary’s County Public Schools in southern Maryland. A Maryland native, he touted his ability to go into a place that’s failing its student and turn it around saying graduation rates in his current school district raised from 84 to 91 percent in his nine year tenure.

Martirano said he can recreate that success in West Virginia by strengthening the state’s focus on school attendance and creating support systems for children both in and out of the classroom beginning early in the education process.

When he takes the position in the fall, Martirano said he will be focused on improving student achievement, but also wants to make sure the highest quality teachers are in the classroom leading West Virginia’s students.

 “For me it’s about recruitment, having alignment with our higher education institutions to make sure teachers are prepared and that we don’t compromise our standards,” he said.

Martirano has been criticized for leaving St. Mary’s County during the midst of an investigation into their increasing deficit. The superintendent pointed to growing health care costs, increasing numbers in the special education program and a harsh winter for the budget constrictions.

Long time Department of Education employee Chuck Heinlein is filling the seat as state school’s chief until Martirano’s current contract ends in September.