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Exiting CCSD Deputy Superintendent Martinez talks accomplishments, challenges

Pedro Martinez believes Clark County is on track to have the highest graduation rate in the school district’s history

As Deputy Superintendent Pedro Martinez ends his one-year tenure at the Clark County School District, he points to higher graduation rates as a key achievement.

"When we started the year, we were on track for a 52 percent graduation rate," Martinez says. "As of June we're at 65 percent, and as of the end of the summer we could be as close as 70 percent. For the first time our state could be at the national average."

This year, the Clark County School District saw improvement on math and reading in state standardized tests.

Martinez is leaving to become superintendent of the Washoe County School District. He points to programs like "Reclaim Your Future" in which CCSD teachers and administrators went door-to-door to persuade dropouts to return, communicated a "we care about you" message to students.

"Our main goal was to change the attitudes of ourselves, frankly," Martinez says. “I think it's unacceptable for children to stop coming to school and we just think it's OK. ..I applaud our principals and our teachers and counselors because they stepped up and said 'you know, that's right, this isn't OK.'"

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As he heads to a new position upstate, Martinez leaves behind a school district that graduates students who aren't prepared for college.

"What we teach in 12th grade English and in Math (at CCSD), is very different than what is expected at the university or the community college level," Martinez says.

CCSD is also struggling with large class sizes and low teacher morale. In June, 400 teachers were given pink slips, one of many cuts the district has implemented to maneuver through budget shortfalls.

 Martinez acknowledges chronic underfunding is an issue in Nevada.

"On a per pupil basis, Clark County spends $8K per student. Compare that to New York - New York spends over $20K per student. Boston spends well over $20K per student. DC has, per pupil, the highest spending, well over $25K per student."

Martinez has seen first-hand the difference that kind of budget can make in the lives of pupils in other states.

"They have more staff on the ground; their class sizes are smaller so they have more teachers. They have more coaches to work with teachers, literacy and math coaches and they have intervention teachers to work with children."

In Clark County, he says, all of that work falls to the teachers.

When he becomes superintendent of the Washoe County School District, Martinez along with CCSD Superintendent Dwight Jones will represent some 90% of public school students in Nevada. For this reason, Martinez believes they will have a significant voice in the Nevada Legislature when it comes to school budget issues.

"I'm looking forward to working with Dwight (Jones) as a superintendent at Washoe. How do we change the conversation at a state level about the investment in education?"

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