When West Virginia State Superinten-dent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano began his job in September 2014, he set a goal for himself – he wanted to visit schools in all 55 counties.
Last week, he visited Pocahontas County – 31st on his list. He managed to visit Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Pocahontas County High School and Marlinton Elementary School in one day.
Martirano, escorted by students, visited classrooms and asked students about their schools and education.
West Virginia Department of Education Executive Director of Communications and Partnerships Kristin Anderson said Martirano prefers to hear directly from the students in order to assess the climate of a school.
“Every school is pretty much the same in that he likes to be greeted by students and taken around by students,” Anderson said. “He wants to hear from students. He loves to go into the classroom, talk to students about their school – if they feel safe, what they like about their school, what they don’t like about their school. It really provides such valuable information.
“He’s a teacher first – he just happens to be the State Superintendent – so he’s in his element when he’s in the classroom,” Anderson add-ed.
At MES, Martirano spoke to the fourth and fifth grade students during their lunch period.
He thanked them for their attention and good manners, and explained why he was visiting.
“All of you are looking at me and giving me respect, so immediately you have made a very good first impression,” Martirano said. “You just told me that you are very respectful students, that you know how to operate effectively in the school, and you are working hard every day in school.”
He explained that while a teacher is in charge of the classroom, the principal is in charge of the school and the superintendent is in charge of the county schools, he [Martirano] is in charge of all the schools in the state of West Virginia.
“In all the counties, there are many students like you,” he said. “I’m in charge of all the education in West Virginia, and I work in Charleston. My office is right next to the beautiful capitol building with the gold dome.”
Drawing on his experience as a teacher, Martirano asked the students to make a prediction of how many students live in the state of West Virginia. He received answers including 1,000, 1,001, 2,000 and even 55 million.
He explained that if there are 55 counties and there could be an estimated 1,000 students in each county, a guess of 55,000 would be a good start, but in fact, the state has 280,000 students.
“Another way to say that number – there are over a quarter million students in West Virginia,” he said. “I’m responsible for a lot of kids.”
After revealing the number of students under his care, Martirano joked with the students about the state of his hair.
“Last year, at this time, I started my job,” he said. “I’m on my one year anniversary. Notice what I’ve got on the side of my head. I didn’t have any gray hair last year before I started this job. Look what this job has done to me.”
Putting all jokes aside, Martirano told the students he and his staff work very hard to ensure they have the best teachers, principal and superintendents in place to provide the best education in the state.
“Everyone in West Virginia values education – one point nine million citizens in our state want all of you to get the best education. My job is to work hard on your behalf. I do for you and you do for me. What could you do for me to ensure that you’re doing your job every day in school?”
The students answered with “be good,” “learn hard every day,” “be polite,” and “listening.”
Martirano reminded the students to come to school every day, learn and receive their high school diplomas.
“I want every student in West Virginia to show up to school every day, work hard every day, be respectful and graduate from high school so that you can go on to college and then get a good job,” he said.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org