Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders from across the United States, today announced that Pedro Martinez has been named chair of the group’s board of directors. Martinez, superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), has served on the Chiefs for Change board since September 2018. He succeeds Louisiana State Superintendent John White, who will remain on the board. Participants in the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs program and senior leaders from members’ systems are visiting San Antonio today to learn more about Martinez’s groundbreaking work to boost student achievement and create campuses that are more socioeconomically and academically diverse.
As board chair, Martinez will lead the network’s more than 30 members in advocating for policies and practices that make a difference for students and in building a pipeline of talented, diverse education leaders ready to oversee major school systems. He has served as superintendent of SAISD since 2015, where he has implemented a comprehensive strategy to dramatically improve academic performance, stem declining enrollment, and attract more families to the district. Approximately 90 percent of the students who live within SAISD boundaries come from low-income families — and the median household income is $30,000 a year.
“I was born in Mexico and grew up in Chicago,” Martinez said. “My father never made more than $7 an hour. I watched him work two jobs his whole life. He died at a young age and never got to know my children. When I think about my own life experience, I relate it to my students. I understand the challenges of poverty. My story is similar to that of many of my students in San Antonio and many students around the country. That is why it’s so important to me that we do everything we can to give all children opportunities to succeed in school and in life. The members of Chiefs for Change not only share that goal but are doing the difficult and essential work needed to achieve it. It is an honor to be selected as board chair, and to serve with my distinguished colleagues.”
Martinez assumes the role just days after education systems led by members of Chiefs for Change posted the highest increases on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, and former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan published an op-ed about what the nation can learn from their success.
SAISD has attracted widespread attention for its academic gains and robust system of school choice. Under Martinez’s leadership, SAISD is the fastest-improving large urban school system in Texas. The number of A- and B-rated campuses has tripled over the past two years, and the district has opened new campuses, including dual language and single gender academies, career-themed high schools, and college-preparation programs.
“Pedro has done as much as anyone to develop new and creative partnerships designed to address long-standing challenges in San Antonio’s schools,” White said. “He is building on the best of the traditional school system with novel approaches that are focused on what matters most for kids. I credit Pedro with leading the country toward a different way of thinking about how we can serve all students well.”
Martinez is deeply committed to developing the next generation of education leaders, both within his own school system and through the Future Chiefs program. He recruited Mohammed Choudhury, who is now a member of the program, to serve as SAISD’s chief innovation officer.
“Our members have great respect for Pedro,” Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee said. “There is so much that all of us in education can learn from his innovative work in San Antonio. As chair of our board, he will take the best ideas from our bold chiefs and lead us in advancing policies that promote sound school choice, high-quality curriculum and professional learning, and reliable, affordable postsecondary pathways for all students. Pedro is, without question, one of the nation’s most accomplished education leaders. We look forward to all the ways he will help to further our impact.”