Howard County superintendent says ‘attendance’ is a big focus for new academic year

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BALTIMORE – Ahead of the upcoming academic school year, WJZ sat down with superintendents in our area to ask them about the plans and challenges.

Howard County Public Schools is preparing to welcome its nearly 60,000 students on August 28. 

Superintendent Michael Martirano said that school leaders will be ready for the first day, and they want students to be in attendance.

“I am really focused this year on attendance, making sure all of our students are in school ready to learn and I need the assistance from our parents.” Superintendent Martirano said.

Martirano said one of his top priorities is combating absenteeism.

“I always look at our data to make decisions, I am extremely data-driven, I am a math and science teacher and I look at the evidentiary-based work which we are doing and in the last several years we have seen a regression in students showing up to our schools,” he said.

The dire nationwide teacher shortage is impacting Howard County Public Schools, too.

“Acknowledging that we have a challenge with our hiring, and I have to be extremely competitive with our salaries, and Howard County has a very high salary, one of the highest in the state,” Martirano said.

Another uphill challenge is the need for school bus drivers, a problem that caused transportation officials to pivot and create workarounds.

“This past school year I had close to 95 vacancies that I had to consolidate routes, I had students on the buses longer I had to do what was called double backs, once they would deliver students, I would have bus drivers go back in different parts of the neighborhood and pick up students again.” Martirano said.

These changes come as school leaders announce a change in start and dismissal times broken up in three tiers.

“The most important message is that no school will start earlier than 8 o’clock,” Martirano said.

Martirano said the prime focus is providing a safe learning environment for all.

“I am a lifelong educator,” Martirano said. “I have been a teacher; I have been a principal at all three levels. I have worked in central office, and I have been a superintendent at various levels and a state superintendent in West Virginia”

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