On Oct. 26, Dr. Michael Martirano, Interim Superintendent for the Howard County Public School System, invited two journalism students and their advisers from every Howard County high school to join him at the Central Office for a media briefing.
“This opportunity, to directly engage with the interim superintendent, will allow student journalists to expand their perspectives through dynamic interaction with people and content they previously may have thought inaccessible,” said Jahantab Siddiqui, Chief Communication, Community & Workforce Engagement Officer.
Students came prepared with questions for Dr. Martirano related to issues they see within their schools and communities.
Dr. Martirano started the meeting by addressing his “Strategic Call to Action: Learning and Leading with Equity.” Equity is defined as the quality of being fair and impartial. In his call to action, he hopes that students and staff will “embrace diversity and posses the skills, knowledge and confidence to positively influence the larger community,” he said.
Many questions and topics were brought up to Dr. Martirano, including redistricting and overpopulation in schools, school start times, the advancement of mental health within the schools and career development.
In the early summer, a new redistricting map was distributed that had many students and parents worried about where they would be going to school next year. With overpopulation in major schools such as Howard, Centennial and Long Reach and under-population in schools like River Hill and Marriotts Ridge, there needed to be a balance.
“Something like this does not just happen overnight,” Dr. Martirano pointed out; it has been a problem since 2007 and is now being addressed. There are currently four plans to address overpopulation and redistricting. Pushing for the creation of a 13th high school will help keep high school students from being redistricted earlier.
Dr. Martirano also shared his passion about having a 100% graduation rate and pushing to catch signs of students who are struggling early on to help work with them. As early as the third grade, he wants teachers to help students who are struggling and are not on grade level reading so that they are able to thrive in the school environment as they age. Looking at attendance rates and student engagement within schools is a big factor in the chance of graduating.
“If young people do not graduate, they will live a life with many challenges,” said Dr. Martirano.
Some students do not plan to go to college after graduating high school and instead aim to go straight into the workforce. Dr. Martirano wants to build a school that would serve as a career development school during the day and a place for adults who are without jobs to learn work skills at night.
Throughout the briefing, Dr. Martirano discussed many other topics and was very passionate about the new push to improve students’ mental health within the school system. He wants every young person to feel comfortable in school. It starts with students being comfortable in a school setting before education can even begin. Dr. Martirano is driven by the fact that we need to take part in students’ achievement and social well-being.
“If the students don’t feel a sense of belonging and being safe and taken care of, then that really starts causing great hindrance to the achievement of academic goals and being a productive citizen of society,” he said.
To wrap up the meeting, Dr. Martirano optimistically looked to a bright future, saying, “Our county has the best shot at getting it right.”
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