Help wanted sign again going up at West Virginia school superintendent’s office

By Shauna Johnson in News

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two years after the hiring of Dr. Michael Martirano, West Virginia is in the market for a new state superintendent of schools.
Martirano’s resignation, which he submitted Tuesday citing family reasons, takes effect on June 30, 2017, allowing time for a replacement to be hired to lead the state Department of Education.

Whoever is brought on board as superintendent before next summer will be the 4th state superintendent of schools the Mountain State has had in less than five years, not including temporary superintendents.

“My biggest concern is that, not only are we dealing with changes to our calendars, our tests, our standards, our resources, but we’ve had at least three different superintendents since I took office in 2012,” said Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers.

Martirano was hired in July 2014 as the replacement for Jim Phares, a former superintendent in Marion County, Pocahontas County and Randolph County who moved to the state superintendent’s role in Jan. 2013.

Citing “pressing family matters,” Phares’ resignation took effect on June 30, 2014.

The hiring of Phares followed the abrupt firing of former Superintendent Jorea Marple in Nov. 2012 after she’d spent just more than a year in the role.

Marple started in March 2011 as the replacement for former Superintendent Steve Paine who retired.

Campbell said she understood the personal reasons for Martirano’s planned departure.

“I commend Dr. Martirano for his efforts, but I’d also like to urge the state Board of Education to seek a leader who will be here, who will guide and support our neighborhood schools and the experts who educate our children,” she said.

“We have principals, teachers and service personnel who’ve been dedicating their lives and careers to our kids and staying often over 30 years.”

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said he was “surprised” by Martirano’s decision to resign. “At the same time, family always has to come first, so I understand his reasoning for the decision that he’s made and respect that,” Lee said.

As the process begins to find the next superintendent, Lee said he was hoping the people working in West Virginia’s schools would be allowed input.

“Educators, teachers, service professionals are the true experts of public education. You need to listen to their voices.”

In his time as superintendent, Martirano has defended West Virginia’s Next Generation education standards, overseen the state’s takeover of Fayette County’s school system and put renewed focus on student achievement.

“Under his leadership, we have codified our College and Career Readiness Standards, we finally have a consistent and continuous assessment and accountability system, plus our students have shown gains in proficiency on assessments,” said Mike Green, president of the West Virginia Board of Education, in a statement.

Green and his fellow Board of Education members will hire the next superintendent.

Prior to taking over as West Virginia’s superintendent in Sept. 2014, Martirano worked for close to a decade as superintendent for St. Mary’s County Public Schools in Leonardtown, Maryland.