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Missouri Education Chief to Resign; W. Va. Gets New State Superintendent

By guest blogger Madeline Will

Monday was a notable day for state-level education leaders, as Missouri's state chief announced her intention to resign at the end of the calendar year, and West Virginia welcomed a new state superintendent. 

Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro has served as the head of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education since 2009. But according to the Associated Press, Nicastro's leadership has faced some criticism. The education department recently received scrutiny for its takeover of the Normandy district and its implementation of a law that requires unaccredited districts to pay for students who wish to transfer to higher-performing schools.

"This is exactly the right time both personally and professionally for a change in leadership," Nicastro said in a written statement. "I will always be a relentless public education advocate in whatever role the future holds."

In a statement, the department praised Nicastro for initiatives during her tenure, including new standards for student learning, school district classification, teacher preparation, and early-childhood education.

Also on Monday, Michael Martirano was sworn in as West Virginia's state superintendent. He replaced James Phares, who retired on June 30.

Martirano has been an educator for 30 years, with roles as a science teacher, an administrator, and a visiting professor at John Hopkins University. He was the 2009 Superintendent of the Year in Maryland. He was chosen as West Virginia state superintendent in June, according to the Charleston Daily Mail, but he had to fulfill a contractual obligation as superintendent of St. Mary's County Schools in Maryland.

"I have had a couple of months to do my homework about the unique challenges and opportunities which are part of West Virginia's educational landscape," Martirano said in a written statement.

West Virginia's public schools serve about 282,000 students, and according to the Daily Mail, nearly 12 percent of high school students in the state drop out, and about 20 percent do not graduate on time. The Daily Mail reports that the graduation rate for St. Mary's County Schools rose from 82 percent to 92 percent during Martirano's time there.

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