Pedro Martinez named finalist to lead Philly schools

Pedro Martinez, a deputy superintendent from Las Vegas, has been named a finalist for the School District of Philadelphia’s superintendent position.

Martinez is one of two candidates vying for the job. The other candidate is expected to be announced today before a public forum where community members and teachers will be able to meet and ask questions of Martinez.

The district, which has 146,000 students in 249 schools not including charters, is looking for its first permanent superintendent since parting ways with Arlene Ackerman last August following a rocky three-year tenure marked by large deficits and conflicts with the mayor and School Reform Commission. Leroy Nunery, who briefly served as interim superintendent, was replaced in January by Chief Recovery Officer Tom Knudsen, but Knudsen’s contract ends this month.

Martinez just completed his first year in the Clark County School District, the fifth-largest in the country, where he was deputy superintendent of instruction. He has also been named one of five finalists for the superintendent job in Washoe County, Nevada, where he previously served as deputy superintendent, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Martinez has never been a school teacher or a principal, but has been credited with increasing graduation rates in Washoe and Clark counties, the Sun reported. One thing that may make him appealing for the Philadelphia job is his experience balancing budgets as chief financial officer of Chicago public schools, the third-largest district in the country.

Whoever is hired in Philadelphia will take over a distressed district that will have to borrow more than $200 million to balance its budget. The district may also lay off 2,500 blue-collar workers and close up to 40 schools next year to cut costs.

Tonight’s forum is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at district headquarters. The second forum will be hosted Tuesday.

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