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Martirano officially hired as state schools superintendent

By Mackenzie Mays, Staff writer
Michael Martirano

Michael Martirano will be the highest-paid state superintendent of schools in West Virginia’s history.

The state Board of Education unanimously voted on Tuesday to hire Martirano, superintendent of St. Mary’s County school district in Maryland, at an annual salary of $230,000.

Jim Phares, whose last day as state superintendent was Monday, was paid $165,000.

Until recently, state law prohibited the superintendent of schools from making more than $175,000. The state school board successfully fought over the past year to get the Legislature to remove that salary cap, saying it would expand the pool of superintendent candidates.

Martirano was paid about $217,000 at his former job in Maryland.

“We couldn’t have gotten him without paying a little more,” said state school board member Lloyd Jackson. “We really perceive that we had to have that salary level. No matter what people think, it takes that kind of salary to attract the best people across America.”

Martirano’s salary will amount to more than five teachers’ average annual salaries. West Virginia is ranked 48th in the nation in teacher compensation, according to the state’s branch of the National Education Association.

In Ohio, the state schools chief is paid about $160,000 annually, while Pennsylvania’s public schools leader makes about $140,000. In Kentucky, the state superintendent makes about $225,000.

West Virginia lawmakers imposed the superintendent salary cap in 1989, and it was last increased in 2006 to $175,000, according to state Department of Education counsel Sherri Goodman.

Before the Legislature intervened, the state school board had the authority to set the salary at any amount, as it does currently, Goodman said.

The school board also removed a policy requiring a state superintendent to have a master’s degree in education administration. A state superintendent in West Virginia is now only required to have a master’s degree in any subject.

Nevertheless, Martirano has a doctorate in education and school management.

Martirano is expected to take over officially in September. Deputy Superintendent Chuck Heinlein is serving in the post in the meantime.

The board had announced Martirano as its top choice last week, following a nationwide search that cost more than $40,000, but did not make it official until its meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Martirano is expected to make his first appearance at a state board meeting July 9.

“I think he will very rapidly become the voice and face of public education in West Virginia. He’s very articulate,” Jackson said. “If you had gone through this process with us, it was a very high-level deliberative process. We spent a lot of time talking about these things, and, in the end, I think we made exactly the right decision.”

Martirano told the Gazette last week that his primary focus will be on improving graduation rates and closing the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their classmates.

“He’s certainly up for the task and has a record of being a tireless worker,” Jackson said.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at or 304-348-4814.


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