State schools chief reorganizes administration

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State schools chief reorganizes administration
By Samuel Speciale, Education reporter Charleston Daily Mail

State Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano has changed the organizational structure of his cabinet by reclassifying the titles of his senior administrators and hiring a new liaison to the Legislature. He also plans to hire a chief of staff.

The changes were outlined Thursday for Senate Education Committee members, who asked Martirano and state school board President Gayle Manchin to give an update on the status of West Virginia’s education system, which for years has been one of the worst performing in the country.

Martirano said the changes he has implemented will make his office more efficient and effective and allow the department to carry out his vision plan, “One Voice, One Focus, All Students Achieving.”

The reorganization, while changing little of the previous administration’s structure, has rebranded the state’s four associate superintendents. They are now called chief officers.

The biggest change, however, is the creation of two positions — a chief of staff and a director of policy and government relations, both of whom will report directly to Martirano.

Annual salaries for the two positions will cost the department about $215,000, but Department spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said no new money is being used. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin instituted a hiring freeze on all non-essential state employees late in 2013.Cordeiro said the positions are funded with money leftover from vacancies in the department and were created after Martirano identified a need for additional help during an evaluation of the department’s staffing structure.

While the chief of staff position has not yet been filled, Martirano hired Sarah Stewart, a local lawyer and former advisor to the state Senate Committee on Government Organization, to be his policy director and legislative liaison.

Cordeiro said Stewart already is familiar with the state’s lawmakers and that the department “hired the right person.”

Stewart joined Martirano’s office on Jan. 1. She’ll be paid $90,000.Martirano said he currently is interviewing candidates for the chief of staff position, which, according to a posting on Education Week, will pay $125,000.“I know there have been great discussions on the staffing levels in Building 6,” Martirano said Thursday when announcing the hires to committee members.

Legislators have been critical of the department’s staffing since a 2012 audit, commissioned by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, concluded the department had a bloated administration that wasted millions.

Martirano said he is aware of those issues and indicated he is evaluating his staff and will make changes if necessary.

Martirano already has a number of executive assistants with various job duties and salaries ranging from $60,000 to $95,000. The chief of staff, however, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the superintendent’s office and ensure there is effective communication between Martirano’s office, the Board of Education and other stakeholders.

Qualifications include a master’s degree in education or a related field and five years of experience working with superintendents or other executive leaders.

At Thursday’s committee meeting, Martirano also presented his vision plan to members and heard concerns they hope to address during the 2015 session, which started Wednesday and will end in March.