A former Prince George's County high school principal will be the next Howard County director of elementary schools, a position that has taken on greater importance since the district launched an improvement program, focusing attention and resources on struggling schools.
Superintendent John R. O'Rourke announced the appointment of Michael Martirano, who has been principal of Laurel High School since last year, to the position yesterday.
Martirano has two master's degrees from the University of Maryland in education-related areas and a doctoral degree from Nova Southeastern University in school management and instructional leadership.
"He has an extensive background in both elementary and the secondary level, and he fully understands the pre-K-through-12 approach," said Assistant Superintendent Roger L. Plunkett. "He will help us to hold elementary administrators accountable for accelerating student achievement."
The Comprehensive Plan for Accelerated School Improvement - which was launched in March - will target the 15 county schools with the lowest test scores or highest percentages of poor students and involves more accountability from teachers, principals and central office staff.
Martirano could not be reached for comment.
O'Rourke said Martirano has "great enthusiasm," and a "clear and obvious commitment to education."
Martirano succeeds Patricia Tidgewell, who was elementary schools director for eight years. Tidgewell is on "special assignment," Plunkett said, helping to oversee the opening of two schools next year - Bellows Spring Elementary and Folly Quarter Middle.
Martirano lives in Columbia and has two children in Howard County schools.
"So he understands our school system and he has been active in the schools here in Howard County," Plunkett said.
O'Rourke also announced yesterday the new principal of Lime Kiln Middle School.
Patrick Saunderson, 33, who is assistant principal at Wilde Lake High School, said he is looking forward to filling the vacancy left by Lime Kiln Principal Stephen O. Gibson.
Last month, Gibson announced he was leaving Lime Kiln - where 71 percent of the pupils scored at a satisfactory level last year in statewide testing - to head Hamilton Middle School in Northeast Baltimore, where 11 percent scored as well.
Plunkett said Saunderson is just the man to take over where Gibson left off.
"He's a strong instructional leader," Plunkett said, "who believes in management by walking around. He will be very visible in the building and very supportive. He's very dedicated."
Saunderson - who has a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in administration from Loyola College - has been working in Howard schools since 1992.
He was chairman of the social studies and athletic departments at Atholton High School for seven years before moving to Wilde Lake, where he has been assistant principal for four years.
Saunderson said he hopes to improve on the budding relationship between Lime Kiln, the community and the other schools on campus - Fulton Elementary and Reservoir High.
Saunderson lives in Sykesville.