Assuming the second candidate does not back out, the rest of the process is expected to move swiftly, with a new superintendent potentially named within a week.
Martinez, 42, who was trained as an accountant, was 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, Nev., school system's superintendent's job, has been deputy superintendent for instruction in Clark County for about a year. He has never worked as a teacher or principal.
Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and educates 308,000 students, is one of the nation's largest school systems. Martinez was recruited to be deputy superintendent there last year.
During his time in Las Vegas, Martinez has aided efforts to get at-risk students to graduation - efforts that include "boot camps" 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 from a poor background through education. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college.
He holds a master's degree from DePaul University and is also a product of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains educational leaders to run urban school systems.
Broad leaders tend to incorporate 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."
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 already has 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 two.
As the search committee 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 unsure what would happen if the candidate yet to be named withdrew.
Pritchett said the SRC - not the larger search committee - would choose the new superintendent.
He said he was not sure what would happen to Thomas Knudsen, currently the chief recovery officer. Knudsen was appointed to a six-month contract as a combination chief executive-chief financial officer in January.
Pritchett said it was unclear whether Knudsen would stay on in some capacity if a new superintendent is named.
Public reaction after the Friday afternoon announcement of one but not both finalists was swift - and angry.
"The process is shocking," said Helen Gym, a founder of Parents United for Public Education. "It's alarming."
Pritchett has defended the selection process, which began in January with a series of meetings around the city. Hundreds of people weighed in on the qualities they wanted in a superintendent.
But that wasn't enough, Gym said. To have one candidate's name still be a secret three days before public meetings begin is a problem, she said.
"I wouldn't even call it a public review," she said.
Contact Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.