Housing allowance considered for next deputy superintendent

Like Superintendent Dwight Jones, the next deputy superintendent of instruction for the Clark County School District could receive a housing allowance funded by private donors.

The funding would expedite Pedro Martinez’s move from Reno, where he is the deputy superintendent of the Washoe County School District, so he could start work in Clark County on May 11.

He would replace retiring Lauren Kohut-Rost, who earns $150,532 a year.

Martinez, 41, said he earns an annual salary of $179,000 in Washoe and received a six-month stipend of $14,000 for housing and travel expenses upon moving to that area in 2009.

He expects his base pay will decline by $20,000 to about $159,000 when he comes to work in Clark County.

But three of the people or groups that have contributed to Jones’ housing allowance want more information before giving their money for Martinez, with one saying its contribution would be unlikely.


The School Board is scheduled to vote Thursday on his contract, which is still subject to negotiation. He would become a "confidential employee," among a group of five or so top executives answering directly to the superintendent.

School Board President Carolyn Edwards said the housing allowance was not meant to bridge the difference between his current salary and the pay scale in Clark County. Because it would be "temporary," it would not "supplement his actual salary on a year-to-year basis," she said.

"Nothing is firm, but the general conversation is that we’re trying to get some support for his transition," Edwards said.

While Martinez is still struggling to sell a home in Chicago, he said he has never been motivated by money. His desire is to "make a difference." He said he understands that sacrifices have to be made in the current economic climate.

The Public Education Foundation, an independent nonprofit that raises money in support of the district, has collected $22,040 for Jones’ housing allowance but has not been approached by the district to collect money on Martinez’s behalf, said Dawn Christensen, a foundation spokeswoman.

The Nevada Ethics Commission ruled in March that Jones’ housing fund is legal under the law, but "poor policy" for giving donors the opportunity to "influence a governmental employee’s decision."

Like Martinez’s possible housing allowance, Jones’ allowance was justified to help expedite his move to Las Vegas. Jones was the commissioner of public education in Colorado before moving to Las Vegas in December.


Some of the contributors to Jones’ fund had mixed reactions about whether they would give money to another housing fund.

Elaine Wynn, a philanthropist, stipulated that she could not give a "blanket yes" without knowing the details but liked the idea.

"I am a big fan of Superintendent Jones. Anything he feels is in the best interest of the children of the Clark County School District, we would be inclined to support," said Wynn, whose company, Wynn Resorts, gave $1,500 to Jones’ housing fund.

Cara Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber’s government affairs committee would have to consider such a request but added that it’s a nonprofit that must be very "judicious" with its money.

She characterized the chamber’s $1,500 donation to Jones’ housing fund as a "special circumstance."

"We really can’t get in the business of housing allowances," Roberts said.

Randy Garcia, whose firm, The Investment Counsel Co., donated $1,500 to Jones’ fund, said he would like to see a policy developed before he commits to giving to another housing fund.

"This is not about Pedro Martinez," Garcia said. "It’s about treating everyone fairly."

Martinez’s credentials have become an issue because of his lack of experience as either a teacher or a principal, but Edwards and Jones have publicly praised him.


On Thursday, the School Board will be asked to approve the expenditure of private money in the form of a $1.8 million grant from the Lincy Foundation, the charity of Kirk Kerkorian, the primary stockholder of MGM Resorts International.

The foundation gave the district $13.8 million in 2008 to use for empowerment schools, or schools given more autonomy for innovation. Jones recently got Lincy’s permission and School Board approval to use $375,000 in leftover funds on consultants.

Jones would like to use the $1.8 million grant, which was already awarded the district, for an outside analysis on the most efficient way to reorganize the district, to help implement a new data system for charting students’ academic growth and for an "apprenticeship project" to be "likely" staffed by Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-performing schools.

Edwards said she was not concerned that the district would become too indebted to the Lincy Foundation .

"The Lincy Foundation has been very hands-off," she said.

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