School & District Management

Conflict Between Reno Superintendent and School Board Roils District

By Lesli A. Maxwell — August 04, 2014 2 min read
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One of the more bizarre superintendent vs. school board dramas I’ve seen in a while has been playing out in recent weeks in the 65,000-student school district in Washoe County, Nev., which includes the city of Reno.

Pedro Martinez, the superintendent in Washoe County for the past two years, was fired by the school board (in a 6-1 vote) at the end of July for what reportedly were disputes over his claim to be a certified public accountant. That’s bizarre fact No. 1.

On the heels of that unexpected news, the Reno community erupted over the board’s decision to fire Martinez, in large part because no agenda had been published to notify the public that the panel was even meeting to discuss the superintendent’s employment, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal The newspaper got in on the action too, requesting that Nevada’s attorney general look into whether the board’s action had violated the state’s open meetings law.

Apparently chastened, or at least heeding the advice of their lawyer, the school board a week later voted to void its vote after enduring a three-hour public hearing that was heavy on criticism of the board’s ouster of Martinez. Even the wife of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval appeared at the meeting to chastise the board for “destroying stability” in the district.

Then Martinez announced he’d return to work, which he did on Aug. 1—another in a series of soap opera-esque facts to add to this story.

But don’t think for one second that the superintendent and board have overcome whatever differences they had that had led all but one member of the panel to vote for his ouster.

In fact, Martinez is moving ahead with a pair of lawsuits against the school district and the school board for violating the terms of his contract, the Gazette-Journal reported. Martinez, who came to Reno from a top administrative job in Clark County schools, Nevada’s largest district, led the Washoe County district’s response to a shooting at a middle school last year that left a teacher and the 12-year-old student assailant dead and left two students wounded.

The school board, which has since downplayed its initial reason for dumping Martinez (over his CPA claims), has more recently sought to characterize its problem with him as stemming from an uncooperative relationship. The board has scheduled a special meeting later this month to publicly discuss the superintendent’s employment status.

Meanwhile, the superintendent’s page on the Washoe County school district website is down—when you follow the link, you see the telltale 404 Page-Not Found message.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the name of the Reno Gazette-Journal.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.