Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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One supt. finalist announced; one to come

An educator from Las Vegas is a finalist for the Philadelphia School District's superintendent's job.

One supt. finalist announced; one to come

An educator from Las Vegas is a finalist for the Philadelphia School District's superintendent's job.

Pedro Martinez, deputy superintendent in Clark County, Nevada, will visit Philadelphia on Monday for a series of meetings and interviews, including a nighttime meet-and-greet that's open to the public.  He was on a flight bound for Philadelphia on Friday afternoon.

A second finalist has been identified but is not yet being named publicly, School Reform Commissioner Wendell Pritchett said in an interview Friday. 

"We’ve promised confidentiality to all the candidates until they were ready to go public," said Pritchett, who heads the superintendent search committee.  He said he expected the second candidate, who's scheduled to meet the public on Tuesday, to be named shortly.

Martinez, 42, who was trained as an accountant, was formerly chief financial officer for the Chicago public schools under now-U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, whom he has cited as a mentor.

Martinez, who was recently also announced as a finalist for the Washoe County, Nevada school system's superintendent's job, has been deputy superintendent for instruction in Clark County for just under year. He has never worked as a teacher or principal.

Clark County, with 308,000 students, is one of the nation's largest school systems. Martinez was recruited to be deputy superintendent last year.

During his time in Las Vegas, Martinez has aided efforts to get at-risk students to graduation - efforts that include "bootcamps" taught by the system's best teachers, online credit recovery courses and shifting some into adult education programs, according to press accounts.

Martinez, 42, is a native of Mexico who rose up from a poor background through education. He holds a master's degree from DePaul University. He is also a product of the Broad Superintendent's Academy, which trains educational leaders to run urban school systems. Broad leaders tend to incorporate some corporate practices into the educational sector.

When Martinez was appointed in Las Vegas, Duncan praised his work in Chicago and said: "He understands that education is an investment in children and the future and in these lean times, he will stretch every dollar to do the most for children in the classroom."

Once the candidates come to Philadelphia, Pritchett said he expects a final decision to come quickly - "even possibly by the end of next week."

In all, about 100 candidates applied or were nominated to lead the district.  Given the challenges of Philadelphia - a nearly-broke district headed for a total reorganization that's already got the public wary - attracting candidates willing to jump in "certainly was a concern of mine," Pritchett said.  "I was really heartened by the number of people who were interested."

The pool of 100 - which included four candidates from Philadelphia, not necessarily from the district, Pritchett said - was winnowed down by the search committee to 15, and then to "four or five," and finally to the two, Martinez and the candidate not yet ready to go public.

As the search commitee chose two finalists, "there was lots of debate; there were differences of opinion, which is natural," Pritchett said.  But he said he was confident the public will meet the two strongest candidates.

Pritchett said he was not sure what would happen if the not-yet-named candidate withdraws his or her name from consideration.

He said the SRC - not the larger search committee - will decide on the superintendent.

About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


Kristen Graham Inquirer Staff Writer
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