Former West Virginia Schools Superintendent Replaces Foose in Howard County Schools

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Michael Martirano, new acting superintendent of Howard County schools.

In the same breath yesterday, Howard County’s school board announced the departure of its superintendent of five years and picked a new one who most recently led West Virginia’s public education system.

Effective today, former West Virginia Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano has taken over as acting chief of Howard County Public Schools. His official term length is only two months, as the current term expires June 30, but he could keep the post for longer if his contract is renewed. Howard County Board of Education Chairwoman Cynthia Vaillancourt said in a statement that he’ll be the school system’s leader while the board conducts a national search.

Martirano announced last fall that he would leave his post as state superintendent in the spring to tend to personal and family matters. He had lost his wife earlier in 2016 and said he wanted to return to his former home state of Maryland to spend time with his children. He resigned this past March.

Via Twitter this morning, Martirano said he is “hopeful and energized” about his new position in Maryland’s top-ranked county school system.

He’s replacing the embattled Renee Foose, who served as the leader of Howard schools for five years during a statistically successful, but professionally turbulent period. While helping to boost the county’s graduation rate and test scores and introduce new foreign language programs in elementary schools, Foose was at odds with her school board during her final two years. The conflict played out in a court battle in which she sued board members, accusing them of undermining her ability to do her job, and in multiple petition drives calling for state officials to fire her.

Statements from yesterday’s announcement make it seem as though Foose and the school board resolved their differences.

“The Board of Education of Howard County wishes to express its appreciation to Dr. Renee Foose for her commitment and service to the Howard County Public School System,” said Vaillancourt in a statement. “During her tenure, Howard County was consistently ranked the top school system in the state and one of the top systems in the country. We are grateful for her leadership.”

Foose thanked teachers, staff and officials who supported her during her five years with Howard schools. “I am proud of my service to the Howard County Public School System and have every expectation that the commitment to excellence in our public schools will continue in the future,” she said in her parting statement.

Her replacement has plenty of experience a a successful administrator in Maryland. Before he took his job in West Virginia in 2014, Martirano was superintendent of St. Mary’s County Public Schools for nine years. His tenure coincided with significant gains in test scores, graduation rates and AP course enrollment among high school students. Among numerous other awards, he earned “Superintendent of the Year” in 2009 and was named “Innovator of the Year” by The Daily Record in 2010.

He also has credentials, with a doctorate of education from Nova Southeastern University, two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s from the University of Maryland.

Martirano wasn’t available to speak this morning. He told the Sun Tuesday night that he hopes finishing this school year will be something of a tryout for a longer-term appointment.

“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” he told the paper.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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