Pedro Martinez has never taught a class or managed a school as a principal, but he is Superintendent Dwight Jones' choice to oversee instruction for the Clark County School District.
As the Clark County School Board prepares to vote Thursday on his nomination as deputy superintendent, Trustee Linda Young is concerned that Martinez might not be qualified under Nevada law.
"I personally feel it's important to have field experience as a teacher and an administrator to supervise people in those fields," she said.
Martinez, 41, is the deputy superintendent for the Washoe County School District and former chief financial officer for Chicago Public Schools, where he managed a $5 billion budget under former Superintendent Arne Duncan, who is currently the U.S. Secretary of Education.
He said his lack of classroom experience is partly "by design" so as to provide a fresh perspective. Martinez said he is part of a national trend of nontraditional candidates becoming educators. He noted that his mentor, Duncan, was never a classroom teacher, either.
Martinez is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which is known for grooming business people for management careers in education.
Martinez, who served for one year as a regional superintendent in Chicago, said his background "has never been an issue. Principals I have worked with in both Chicago and Washoe say they appreciate the fact that I listen to the issues they're facing. I come up with creative, out-of-the-box solutions to help them."
Under the Nevada Administrative Code, school district supervisors of curriculum and instruction are required to have a teaching certificate, three years of teaching experience and a master's degree with advanced classes in education.
State Superintendent Keith Rheault said he has advised school districts that nonlicensed personnel can take management positions as long as they're not signing the professional evaluations of the licensed personnel, or the teachers and school administrators.
Rheault was satisfied that the Washoe County School District complied with Nevada law because he understood that Superintendent Heath Morrison was signing evaluations for Martinez.
Martinez said it's "still up in the air" how he would work in Clark County, where he would be replacing Lauren Kohut-Rost, who is retiring next month.
Martinez currently earns $179,000 in Reno and is in negotiations with the Clark County district, where Kohut-Rost earns $150,532 a year.
Rheault said he has advised Martinez that he could pursue an alternative route to a teachers' license.
"Looking at his education and experience, he should be able to qualify for a special qualifications license," Rheault said. "Because he has never taught, I told him to get his application in."
Rheault also recognized the push toward attracting more nontraditional candidates to education. A bill in the Legislature would streamline the alternative licensure process by reducing education and work evaluation requirements.
Oregon is also considering legislation to make it easier for school districts to hire superintendents who don't have educational backgrounds.
"This is something we're going to see more of in the future," Rheault said.
Martinez is a certified public accountant with his bachelor's from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree in business administration from DePaul University. Before working for nearly seven years for Chicago Public Schools, he was director of finance and technology for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.
Despite his business background, Martinez said, he is not interested in becoming a chief financial officer again.
"At the end of the day, all the action is at the school level," he said.
Martinez said he is committed to building a future in Nevada especially because he and his wife, Berenice , have a 6-month-old son, Lucas.
Young said she is not opposed to Martinez's selection but has asked Jones to make sure that the district would be complying with state law. Jones could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Ruben Murillo, president of the teachers' union, the Clark County Education Association, said Martinez comes with a good recommendation because Dana Galvin, the president of the teachers' union in Reno, the Washoe Education Association, had "nothing but praise for him."
Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@review journal.com or 702-374-7917.