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August 19, 2014

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School Board approves hiring new head of classroom instruction

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Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez, who has never taught in the classroom but is credited with helping raise high school graduation rates in Washoe County, was hired Thursday as deputy superintendent of instruction for the Clark County School District.

Martinez, 41, will oversee classroom instruction, becoming a key player in the cabinet of first-year Superintendent Dwight Jones.

Jones has vowed to raise student graduation rates, despite a pending budget cut of as much as $400 million and the possible layoff of at least 2,000 teachers amid the state budget crisis.

Martinez, who is Hispanic, joins Jones, who became Clark County’s second African-American superintendent in December.

Supporters say Jones and Martinez are reflective of the diversification of the Southern Nevada population and the school district’s student population, which is 41 percent Hispanic and 37 percent white.

Martinez, who held a similar position in the Reno-based Washoe County School District, replaces Linda Kohut-Rost, who is retiring.

Sylvia Lazos, a professor at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, spoke in support of Martinez, in part, because of the “cultural affinity” that could come from Hispanic students seeing a native Spanish speaker atop the school district’s hierarchy. Lazos is a member of the district’s Hispanic Roundtable, a panel that provides members with the opportunity to discuss the relationship of the 309,000-student school district with the region’s booming Hispanic population.

Other activists in the Southern Nevada Hispanic community echoed those comments, but they primarily pointed to the credentials of Martinez, a certified public accountant with a master’s degree in business administration. He served as chief financial officer for the Chicago Public Schools when U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan headed that city’s school system.

Martinez received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and his master’s degree from DePaul University.

“Three months into this, you’ll say, ‘Wow, what a great hire,’” Jones told members of the School Board, who unanimously approved the hire after a closed-door executive session to finalize the negotiations. “The plans I have for Mr. Martinez will align quite well.”

Martinez will earn $158,795 annually and will receive $27,000 over eight months to aid with moving costs.

School Board member Linda Young, a former teacher and school administrator who recently raised questions about Martinez’s lack of classroom experience, was the first person to speak Thursday in support of his hiring. “We’re all looking forward to working with Mr. Pedro Martinez,” she said.

Martinez will be charged with helping the district increase graduation rates.

The Clark County School District claims a high school graduation rate of 72 percent, but think tanks and universities place the figure closer to 50 percent.

Jones has repeatedly said in public that he has demanded district staff produce an accurate and transparent accounting, noting that its failure to do so has created a crisis of confidence that is plaguing the district in the current budget debate in the Nevada Legislature.

CORRECTION: This story was changed to correct that Dwight Jones is the second African-American superintendent of the school district, not the first, as was originally reported. | (April 29, 2011)

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  1. @keystone6--get over it dude with the racial pandering stuff.

    Some people think this is a decent appointment. Let's see how it goes.

    It's not a though the results in the district are sterling. Nothing to lose and everything to gain by going with an innovative choice. Puts the education establishment on notice.

  2. The outcomes in the CCSD are unsatisfactory when viewed in aggregate. Different outcomes requires different approaches have to be tried. Kudos to Superintendent Jones for thinking outside the box on this one.

  3. Typos everywhere in the previous post (sorry)

    The outcomes in the CCSD are unsatisfactory when viewed in aggregate. Different outcomes require different approaches. Kudos to Superintendent Jones for thinking outside the box on this one.

  4. Is $157k a lot for managing several thousand employees?

  5. What I find really dull is someone who draws conclusion from what people do not comment on such as 1745night. Pretty pathetic reasoning if you ask me with your previous comment.

    As for your comments, you just decided to take a shot at a conservative poster for no other reason than your own stupid preconceived notions. Businessman? Never mentioned the term and to my knowledge the man is an administrator, not a businessman.

    The man hired by the District according to the rules. Call the School Board.

  6. Joe:

    I think we disagree on this one.

    I don't think the he plans to have "dancer perform surgery".

    Indeed as noted "Pedro Martinez, who has never taught in the classroom but is credited with helping raise high school graduation rates in Washoe County...

    As Superintendent Jones is quoted"The plans I have for Mr. Martinez will align quite well." If the goal is to improve graduation rates, the district just hired someone who is credited in part with doing so elsewhere in this state. Sound like building on what he has done elsewhare and not the dancer doing surgery.

    As I said earlier, if we want different outcomes, we have to start trying different approaches. This was what Mr. Jones was hired to do.

    This is an interesting choice. It is a risky choice, but circumstances require some risk taking. I would submit it is no riskier than continuing on the path we are on. I read very statements here and elsewhere, that the status quo is okay, quite to the contrary.

    How else do we bring about better outcomes?

  7. Joe:

    I agree the moving expenses thing is high, but the salary and moving expense would likely be the same for anyone they hired.

    Indeed, would the CCSD had been better served by retaining some classroom teachers instead of hiring an administrator?

    If you take a look on the editorial page for the piece by Regent Wixom, calling for paradigmatic change in higher education. Something he does not discuss is that paradigmatic change in any field does not come from within. Its source is outside the discipline.

    This is a risky selection by Superintendent Jones and the School Board. There were no doubt people with experience in the trenches, as you put it, some of whom would no doubt have been less risky.

    There is an awful lot riding on this selection for Mr. Jones. This selection will be under the microscope. Indeed, Mr. Jones seems to suggest that the choice will be viewed positively in only a short time.

    If this turns into an unmitigated disaster, responsibility will be the Superintendent's and his alone. There will be a lot a scrutiny (he no doubt understands this). He is still going ahead with this choice.

    Sometimes you have to take a chance to bring about change. I think the outcomes we now have are not satisfactory and steps need to be taken to facilitate better outcomes.

  8. The solutions we harp about in this forum are useless because the ship has become rudderless.

    The principles that underpin the philosophy of education and how it is dilivered must be examined. The mission of any school district is quite simply, to prepare the children to become contributing members of society. Its vision must be focused using a single lens: Student achievement.

    Sadly that vision is flawed with politics and personal agendas.

  9. 'delivered' sorry.

  10. Just checking in to see how Pedro (our reject) is doing in Vegas.