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Meet the new head of the class
by Garrett Valenzuela
Jul 01, 2012 | 2076 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pedro Martinez spoke to the community Thursday in a town hall meeting at the National Automobile Museum.
Pedro Martinez spoke to the community Thursday in a town hall meeting at the National Automobile Museum.
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RENO — Pedro Martinez will take over as Washoe County School District superintendent from Heath Morrison beginning in the fall. Martinez spoke to the community Thursday in a town hall meeting at the National Automobile Museum. Below are a summary of some questions and answers during the town hall.

-Q: What are your thoughts on community involvement with the strategic plan?

-A: “When I was here before I was very impressed, frankly, by how much we were able to engage the community and I love the fact that the strategic plan was developed in-house and that we let the community in. Because we could pay consultants and they could do a fancy strategic plan in a binder that never goes anywhere, but when it’s done internally and we have buy-in from principals and teachers and the community is engaged, frankly, there is no limit to what we can do with that plan.”

-Q: How do you see the WCSD partnering with higher education facilities such as UNR and TMCC?

-A: “As I think about what we need to do next to get to the next level, we need to think a little more creatively and a little more out of the box. TMCC has some of the best programs that I have ever seen when it comes to, for example, biotech and green energy and UNR has some of the best colleges in pre-med, engineering and business. We should have a direct pipeline right into those institutions. I am very proud of the number of people we have been able to get (into college) but I am very unsatisfied with the remediation rates. I think that it is unacceptable to have so many of our children graduate but then their parents have to pay for remedial classes at TMCC and UNR.”

-Q: Talk to us about your leadership style and how it will relate to the board of trustees.

-A: “Internally, I believe problem solving happens at the building level. Now division and expectations happen centrally and one of the things principals always tell me is, ‘Let me know what you expect and then let’s talk about support systems and then you can hold me accountable.’ That’s why we have been able to see the kind of gains that we have. I think community input and involvement is crucial and I am a big believer in transparency. When we engage our community (we) let them know what is going on in our schools, and not just the good things but also the things that we’re struggling with. We have some of the best high school principals in the country, but there is still some programming that we can bring to the district that can take it to the next level.”

-Q: What programs would you like to see continue or be implemented in WCSD?

-A: “I think we have great high schools here, but I also think that we can take them to the next level. I have seen some schools where children do not use textbooks and they do all their work in the classroom in a virtual setting because technology comes so natural to many of them. When I look at our high schools there is some advanced programming out there in the rest of the country that could be built in to our structure to keep kids engaged.

“At the middle school level, I am very concerned that some children coming out of middle school are not prepared for high school, which is a trend we are seeing nationwide. Something I think we need to push for is AP (Advanced Placement) learning programs at the middle school level.”

-Q: Elaborate on your plans for performance management.

-A: “I believe, having looked at what is going on across the country and our district, one of the common elements is the use of data — the use of data to provide instruction and to set goals. You can see the progress of the children and that progress management is where it starts. Then you bring that up to the district level so you can see what we are striving for with graduation rates. If it is applied correctly, I have always seen amazing success.

-Q: Elaborate on your thoughts about early childhood programs.

-A: “Providing education to children early in life gives them the ability to want to continue learning. Catching them early is the key. When we wait, children fall behind and it becomes so expensive, but the reality is that children lose hope and their self-esteem goes down. At minimum, it has to be in our high-achieving schools because if we ever want to have a chance at closing the achievement gaps that is one of the keys.”

-Q: How will you lobby the legislature and establish relationships with them?

-A: “One thing I am excited about, and that is unique to this community, is that we have good relationships with our legislators. I would want to work with our legislators and the governor about our long-term goals. The conversation has changed, it is no longer why should we invest in education and get the terrible results that we get. We have proven in northern Nevada that we are serious. I want to push ourselves and there are so many opportunities for us here. When we push our children and raise expectations, they always exceed them. I will take that bet every time.”

-Q: What is your opinion about technology and its importance in schools?

-A: “Technology, I feel, is actually a key component to how we look at our schools. My vision and my goal will be that we need 100 percent of our children to graduate. I think at the front of that is bringing technology to our schools and engaging children. One of the things I think we have to acknowledge is that our children are very different learners than we were. We need to use federal funds to bring in the technology and train our teachers to use it as well as our children do.”

-Q: What would be your plan to engage the business community to influence our students to graduate?

-A: “We have an amazing community here and we can engage our business partners. We work with our children so not only do they see we are pushing them to graduate but giving them something where they can see the relevance of getting a degree from TMCC or UNR. One of the disconnects I think we have is that we don’t do enough with our businesses and I think that’s something that is very easy to solve because we have some great opportunities here.”

Pedro Martinez's Resume

Education

• Fellowship, Broad Superintendents Academy, 2009

• Public Education Leadership Program, Harvard University, 2006

• Masters in Business Administration, DePaul University, Chicago, Ill., 2006

• Bachelor of Science, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

Professional Experience

• Deputy Superintendent, Clark County School District (April 2011-present)

Provide leadership to 357 schools serving 380,000 students with a $2.5 billion operating budget for the 5th largest public school district in the U.S. Supervise 14 Academic Managers, Curriculum, and Professional Development, Student Support Services and ELL Services.

• Deputy Superintendent, Washoe COunty School District, (2009-April 2011)

Provide leadership to 102 schools serving 65,000 students with a $600 million operating budget. Supervise four Area Superintendents, Chief Academic Officer, Accountability Office, Student Support Services and Grant Management.

Community Leadership

• Nevada Public Education Foundation, Member from 2010-present

• Archdiocese of Chicago, Catholic Schools Board Member 2008-2010

• YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Finance and Human Services committees, 2007-2009
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