Pedro Martinez is now the sole candidate for the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) superintendent position after the other finalist, Scott Muri, dropped out of the running to be considered for the position in another school district.
SAISD Board President Ed Garza said the district received a letter late Monday evening from Muri that thanked SAISD for its consideration, but that he has decided to pursue a position for which he would be the only candidate. Muri, currently a deputy superintendent of academics for Fulton County Schools, did not specify where he was applying, but the position at Fulton County Schools is open.
The board will vote on hiring Martinez on May 4, after the 21-day waiting period required by law before making a formal offer.
“When the board named these two finalists, the entire board was confident that both of these (candidates) were highly qualified,” Garza said.
“They were both excellent candidates, this just makes it a lot easier for us,” said SAISD Board Vice President and District 6 Trustee Olga Hernandez. “We’re the best kept secret in town and (Martinez) sees that coming in.”
After a full day of meeting with SAISD trustees, parents, students, business leaders, and other community members on Monday, Martinez said he is sold on San Antonio and excited to be considered. Each candidate was to have this opportunity to meet with stakeholders, Muri’s meetings scheduled for Wednesday have been cancelled.
“I feel comfortable – I want to be here,” Martinez said, addressing the media in both English and Spanish. He is currently the superintendent-in-residence for the Nevada Department of Education. If approved by the board, he will bring his wife and two children, aged 4 and 1, to the district.
Having experience with larger, low-income districts, he was confident that he could bring the SAISD mission statement to become a national model for urban school districts. “The conditions are just right to become the district of choice,” he said. “54-55,000 children is just the right size because we’re not too big that it’s difficult to implement things and we’re not too small.
“We’re sort of the sleeping bear. So as a call-out for all the other districts and charters and private schools, just beware.” he added, already using the pronoun “we” when speaking about SAISD.
Garza said he was most impressed with Martinez’ experience with “transforming” large school districts in Chicago and Nevada.
“He had shown academic gains (in previous districts) – especially in the area of college readiness,” Garza said “SAISD has made a 26% increase in graduation. So we’re further ahead (by that measurement) than they were, but we’re behind in college readiness and SAT scores and advanced placement exams. He’s been able to demonstrate where he’s moved the needle in a lot of these similar districts with similar demographics.”
More than 90% of the population is Latino and living below the poverty line in SAISD. Quality public schools would do more to transform the lives of their children than anything else anyone can do for them.
“The biggest challenge we have is to toot our own horn about the accomplishments we have and at the same time be very transparent and very direct about where we’re struggling,” he said. “Not enough children go into top four-year universities, not enough children are taking and passing advanced placement courses. I’m very excited about the early college programs that we are starting, but again we have to make sure those are also the best they can be. For me, it’s defining excellence … is it time today to define what excellence means to San Antonio ISD?”
Before working with the Nevada Department of Education, Martinez served as the superintendent for Washoe County School Districts in Nevada. He is credited with improving the district’s graduation rates and increased the percentage of students participating in and passing the advanced placement exam. He also previously served as CFO at Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third largest school district, under the leadership of former Superintendent Arne Duncan, now U.S. Secretary of Education.
Martinez’ resume boasts more than 20 years of experience in the private, nonprofit, and public education sectors, which he believes give him the leadership and management skills necessary to transform large urban school districts. Martinez holds an M.B.A. from DePaul University and a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.
*Featured/top image: Pedro Martinez is the sole finalist for the SAISD superintendent position. Photo by Iris Dimmick.