The Howard County Public School System promoted the district’s chief academic officer, William Barnes, on Thursday to be the acting superintendent of the school system.

Barnes has been with HCPSS for 15 years and served as the academic officer since July 2017. In that role, he oversaw curriculum and instruction, special education and student services.

Barnes was previously director of secondary and pre-K–12 curricular programs, and coordinator of secondary mathematics. Before moving to Howard County schools, he was a team leader and teacher in Baltimore County. He graduated from Towson University in 1995 and earned a bachelor’s degree in math.

“This is a large role you are taking on,” said school board member Jennifer Mallo after announcing the selection.

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The naming of the new leader comes after the current superintendent, Michael J. Martirano, suddenly announced his retirement in November. His last day is Jan. 10, 18 months into a four-year contract that would have ended in June 2026. The interim superintendent will fulfill the remainder of Martirano’s contract. Martirano was earning a salary of $292,197.

No reason was given for his early departure, but it comes on the heels of a now-resolved bus crisis that left thousands of students without a ride during the first weeks of the school year. Martirano, who led the district for nearly seven years, apologized to the community when a new contractor’s buses failed to show up on time or at all to pick up and drop off students.

The contract for Barnes starts Jan. 10 and runs through June 30, 2024, and is pending the approval of the superintendent of schools for the state. The board did not specify what salary he’ll be paid. In the seven-minute-long meeting, the board did not discuss what steps are being taken to fill the position on a full-time basis.

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