Two candidates compete for Philly schools chief

Pedro Martinez, deputy superintendent of schools in Clark County, Nev., will be introduced to the public during a forum on Monday evening. Paul Takahashi/LAS VEGAS SUN
Pedro Martinez, deputy superintendent of schools in Clark County, Nev., will be introduced to the public during a forum on Monday evening. Paul Takahashi/LAS VEGAS SUN
Posted: June 26, 2012

TWO CANDIDATES vying to be the school district's next superintendent come from different backgrounds.

One is a Latino immigrant, who has worked in the Midwest and West, with a penchant for crunching numbers. The other is African-American, with degrees in educational leadership, whose jobs have taken him to the South and the Mid-Atlantic.

Both men, Pedro Martinez, 42, and William R. Hite Jr. , 50, will be in Philadelphia this week for public forums at district headquarters. Martinez, the deputy superintendent of the Clark County School District in Nevada (will meet the school community at the Monday meeting while Hite, superintendent of Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland, will attend the Tuesday forum.

School Reform Commissioner Wendell Pritchett told the website The Public School Notebook that a job offer could be made by the end of this week.

The sudden announcement of a possible final decision this week has some school advocates and parents angry at the SRC.

"I don't know how this can be seen as anything but an installation," said public schools advocate Helen Gym. "It's just forcing the process on the community as opposed to really engaging the community about the next superintendent."

Hite has been chief of Prince George's schools since 2009, although he had been named interim superintendent in 2008. He oversees Maryland's second-largest school system with 135,000 students, 200 schools and a budget of $1.6 billion. The former middle and high school principal was hired by the district in June 2006 and, according to a district bio, led efforts resulting in increased student achievement with significant improvements in teaching and learning.

Before he joined Prince George's schools, Hite was an area assistant superintendent for the Cobb County School District in Atlanta and director of middle school instruction for Henrico County Public School System in Richmond, Va.

Martinez, a certified public accountant, is also one of five superintendent finalists with a former employer in Nevada, the Washoe County School Board. A native of Mexico, Martinez had worked in Washoe as deputy superintendent from September 2009 until April 2011 when he went to Clark County, where he oversees the academic departments and 308,000 students in 357 schools.

While he's been in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, the district has implemented academic reforms at all levels, led the elimination of all remedial courses in high schools while increasing student participation and performance rates in advanced programs.

Before Washoe, Martinez worked at the Chicago Public Schools for 6 1/2 years as a regional superintendent and chief financial officer, overseeing a $5.2 billion operating budget and a $1 billion capital budget, according to a bio provided by the school district. His boss while in Chicago was now-U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

"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," Duncan said of Martinez in 2011. Were Martinez chosen to be superintendent here, it could give Philadelphia a friend in Washington, D.C. n

Email Regina Medina at medinar@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @reginamedina

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