Archived Articles: February 2017

Change Management Is Top Priority for Martirano


As the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) begins a new school year, it does so under the direction of an Interim Superintendent. Michael Martirano, the former West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools, was hired by the county’s Board of Education in May to fill a gap created when former HCPSS Superintendent Renee Foose agreed to a brokered exit.

Despite the demands of shepherding a newly reorganized administration and school system into full operational mode — while remaining fully engaged in efforts to mend relationships and realign priorities —Martirano graciously made time to sit down with The Business Monthly and discuss his views of the responsibilities he’s been given.

“It’s a very unique situation to follow a superintendent [in an environment] where there was very great strife and consternation, and to leave with three-fourths of the school year behind is extremely unusual,” Martirano said. “I had to quickly come in and assess the environment I had to heal. I’m still doing that; I’m still reconnecting with people, building bridges to all the partnerships that were eliminated or not tended to.”

One week before the school year began, he completed the self-appointed task of meeting with every staff member in the organization.

“That’s not happened in the past,” Martirano said. “I think we’ll be able to heal the organization quickly. I’m already seeing evidence of that … based upon the response people have towards my message, their openness of discussion with me, the tenor of business of how things are being done, and those are good indicators for me.”

Sense of Urgency

Referring to the change management touchstone book “A Sense of Urgency,” by John Kotter, Martirano said he is acting from a very high level of urgency in his position, unwilling to waste a minute that could be used to build a stronger foundation to move the school system forward in the time he’s been given.

“We have a major problem regarding capacity issues,” he said, with 34 of the system’s 76 schools either over or under HCPSS Policy 6010’s targeted utilization range of 90% to 110%.

Martirano recently presented the Board of Education with a redistricting feasibility study (which is available in Spanish and English) that would place each of the county’s schools back in the targeted range.

The process is advancing and may cause concern for people whose attendance polygons are affected, he said. “The bottom line is, it has to be done, and it has to be comprehensive. It was not done in the last five years, and it’s built exponentially. If we don’t deal with it now, it will get worse.”

He also scaled back the previous superintendent’s Capital Improvements Program budget, bringing a proposed $140 million career technology high school in line with the Marriotts Ridge and Reservoir prototype high schools that cost no more than $100 million.

That option allows for replacement rather than renovation of Talbott Springs Elementary, he said, and allows funding for further renovations at Oakland Mills High School and additional work at the Applications and Research Laboratory.

“It’s … more judicious to get better results for our kids in a more timely fashion and still meet the needs of our 13th high school,” Martirano said.

Programs, Initiatives

Some programmatic changes instituted by the previous superintendent will remain, some will cease and others will be fine-tuned.

Like Foose, Martirano is a strong advocate of internships for high school students. “I want to continue to advance that process,” he said.

As a former elementary school principal and director of Howard County elementary schools, however, he admitted that he has doubts regarding the elementary school model the previous superintendent championed.

“I’m not a strong proponent of departmentalization at early ages,” Martirano said.

Directing the elimination of Gallup work conducted in that arena, the interim superintendent has eliminated departmentalization at the first grade level and given second grade teams the option to continue, provided the teams are in agreement.

Martirano indicated he would like to take a more innovative approach to expanding the implementation of world language instruction at the elementary level.

“There are also ways to do it regionally,” he said, suggesting that participating students could be bused to different immersion programs located in different regions of the county.

“That also is a way of dealing with capacity,” he said, “and you can get more in terms of program offerings.”

Looking to recognize the county’s strong agricultural background, Martirano directed a study group to explore the possibility of implementing the Curriculum for Agriculture Science Education (CASE) as an option for career technology instruction.

“If planning goes correctly and the funding sources are there, I would like to implement that in the fall of 2018,” he said.

Policy Changes

Effective this year, the school system will begin moving toward a restorative practices policy in dealing with student discipline, seeking rehabilitation in place of suspensions used as a punishment.
“We have to comply with state laws for weapons [violations], but we don’t want to continue to add to the pipeline to prison by providing suspensions that add to children not being in school and dropping out,” Martirano said. “Our demographics are shifting, we have higher levels of poverty, and we need to do things to keep kids in school.”

Other recently announced changes include accelerating the agenda to have a salad bar or salad offering in every elementary school, and a new requirement that each central office administrator provide two days of support to the county’s schools.

“I never want people to lose connection when they’re sitting here in the so-called ivory tower,” Martirano said. “We had to cut back in our budget this year on lunch and recess monitors: There’s a prime way for people to provide some additional support in our schools as we’re cutting budgets.”

Owing to the timing of his appointment, Martirano had one week to effectuate change through the budget process, and quickly repositioned resources to restore 87 para-educators to keep media centers fully staffed this year.

“I’m working very closely with Christine McComas, whose daughter Grace committed suicide a few years back as a result of bullying,” he said. “Bottom line, there will be some significant change, but I want to signal a different culture: a culture of support, that kids feel they can come to school and be safe from bullying and harassment. I’ve taken a very vocal stance in terms of anti-hate language. I will not tolerate hate within our schools.”

It’s Personal

Having spent 19 years living and working in Howard County, Martirano said he developed early relationships with a number of people who now serve on the County Council, in the county’s legislative delegation or on the school board.

“I think there’s a level of trust that’s being built because the relationship with a number of them was already there, and I’m not an unknown commodity,” he said. “Based on the feedback I’ve received from them as human beings as well as elected officials, it’s been very positive and supportive.”

Trying to resolve issues from the past “has spent an incredible amount of my time,” said Martirano. His time during the last month has focused on planning and renewing the vision for the school system for this year, in addition to rearranging and reorganizing the department.

“I can’t let things to chance when you’re overseeing an organization and business of $820 million, 56,000 young people and 8,300 employees,” Martirano said. “Our kids and our parents are counting on us, and right now it’s personal. I want this system back where it was when I left it when my kids were in the system.”

What’s After the Rebuild: In Ellicott City? Ask ULI

It’s been more than six months since the devastating late July flash flood that rushed down Historic Ellicott City’s Main Street.

But after the destruction came progress, too: Infrastructure work that was to take place in the future has been completed, sometimes years in advance; some buildings that were in danger of being demolished were saved; most of the businesses have reopened; and day-to-day life is returning to normal.Read Full Article »

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announces bills protecting property rights

Kittleman Files Bills to Restore Property, Farmers’ Rights

On Jan. 12, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced that he intended to file two bills — one to restore property rights to more than 30 county landowners in western Howard County and a second that would help protect farming operations. In addition, Kittleman announced he would also file a Zoning Regulation Amendment (ZRA) to assist farmers in maximizing the use of their land for agriculture.Read Full Article »

Biz Roundup

HHC Acquires Two Downtown Columbia Office Buildings

The Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) has expanded its holdings in Downtown Columbia with the acquisition of the American City Building (ACB), which sits adjacent to Whole Foods Market on Little Patuxent Parkway; and One Mall North, positioned on the outside of the ring road surrounding The Mall in Columbia. Both purchases were underwritten in view of their future development potential.Read Full Article »

Economic Development Update A Message From HCEDA CEO Larry Twele

Ed Note: Every month, part of The Business Monthly’s mission is to provide business news, development information and current affairs in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. This month, Howard County Economic Development (HCEDA) CEO Larry Twele shares an update with our readers.

The past year was marked with great successes and great challenges. We had many opportunities to celebrate the achievements of businesses here and even greater opportunities to positively impact the businesses that call Howard County home, and to help them to grow and succeed.Read Full Article »

Arundel Council Narrows Impact of Proposed Bill

The Anne Arundel County Council has reduced the scope of a proposal bill that is intended to mitigate crime at commercial properties, notably at smaller hotels in Laurel along Route 198, so it now applies only to hotels with 200 rooms or less. Introduced by Councilman Andrew Pruski (District 4), Bill 87-16 would apply to businesses with 10 or more “nuisance” arrests that could be issued via public nuisance notice by the police. That would allow the county to temporarily shutter businesses that are found in violation until the owner(s) address the issues.Read Full Article »

CRTC, Montgomery County-Based TCM Merge

The evening of Jan. 24, during the 29th Annual Maryland Policy & Leadership Dinner, the Technology Council of Maryland (TCM), of Rockville, and the Annapolis-based Chesapeake Regional Tech Council (CRTC) announced a merger of the organizations. It is designed to expand and regionalize Maryland’s technology and life science hubs, while creating a consistent, unified voice for the industries statewide and a platform to attract more companies and leverage synergies.Read Full Article »

Know Federal Contracting Market Trends

As the United States transitions to a new president, the federal spending market is expected to continue with positive momentum, according to the experts speaking at the “GovConomy Today” event, which was held at The Ritz-Carlton, Tyson’s Corner, in McLean, Va., in January. At the meeting, Larry Davis, managing partner at Aronson LLC, reported that while overall the growth is stable in most federal industries, “there is outsize growth in cybersecurity, C4ISR, data analytics and health care [information technology].”Read Full Article »

Nothing Succeeds Like Excess

The folks at the annual extravaganza in the desert — the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas — have once again tried to convince we, the people, that our lives would be empty and meaningless unless we acquired only the latest of gadgets. These are the people who gave us 4K TVs (do you even know someone who owns one?) and keep on pushing wearable technology, as if we didn’t have enough opportunities to walk into a wall while distracted.Read Full Article »

Business Briefs

HMC Hires Seven Grads of Sagamore’s Manufacturing Bootcamp

HMC Inc., a Columbia based design and manufacturing facility, has hired seven of the first eight graduates of Sagamore Development’s pilot Manufacturing Bootcamp to work at its facility. A 100% woman-owned business, HMC is a commercial design-build firm focused on the design, fabrication and installation of interior custom food service and hospitality displays for large customers.Read Full Article »

People In Business

Horizon Announces New Trustee, Board Officers

The Columbia-based Horizon Foundation has announced the appointment of a new trustee and four officers to lead its board. They are Henry Posko, chair, Humanim; Gregory Olaniran, vice chair, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp; Robin Steele, secretary, Bridges Consulting; Janet Currie, treasurer, Bank of America; and Jeffrey Rivest, new trustee, former CEO of University of Maryland Medical Center.Read Full Article »

Nonprofit News & Charitable Giving

Arundel’s Schuh Announces Commission on Government Innovation, Effectiveness

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has formed the County Executive’s Commission on Government Innovation and Effectiveness, a bipartisan effort to examine how government can better serve the citizens of Anne Arundel County. “We are committed to providing the best government we can to the citizens of Anne Arundel County,” said Schuh. “We need a wholesale review of every department and operation to understand how we can make government work more effectively for the people.”Read Full Article »

In Brief

Marriner Marketing Supports Plastics Industry Association in Launching New Brand Identity

The Plastics Industry Association, in partnership with Marriner Marketing, recently unveiled its new brand identity and launched an integrated campaign to build awareness for its core role in supporting the six segments of the plastics supply chain. The association, formerly known as the Society of Plastics Industry and now dubbed PLASTICS, sees an opportunity to grow and fully engage its members and the industry in helping achieve the vision of a “Better Industry. Better World.”Read Full Article »

Why Working With Too Many Vendors Can Be Your No. 1 Marketing Mistake

Every business, no matter the size of the workforce, amount of revenue it generates or product/service it is selling, needs a marketing strategy and plan. But what happens when your company needs a wide variety of marketing initiatives — a new logo, branding guidelines, website, promotional products and printing various pieces of collateral? Do you hire five different vendors to fulfill these different needs or one vendor that can do it all?Read Full Article »

Why Different Is Better

Branding. It’s an overused and mostly misunderstood term — and it’s the fuel of marketing communications. It’s not just your logo or website, but the idea of who you are in the minds of your audience. It is an essence — part culture, part message, part visuals, part how you show up in the world — but it’s really mostly about perception.Read Full Article »