SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez is headed back to Chicago.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has picked Martinez to lead the Chicago Public Schools system, where he worked between 2003 and 2009 before joining SAISD in 2015.
Lightfoot made the formal announcement on Wednesday morning at Benito Juarez High School, where Martinez graduated from.
Lightfoot praised Martinez, calling him a historic pick for the position, saying he is the first Latino to be selected for the position.
“An immigrant from Mexico who came to Chicago and grew up right here in Pilsen,” Lightfoot said. “His public education journey began here at CPS.”
Martinez will oversee the nation’s third-largest school system and become the first Hispanic to do so on a full-time basis, the Sun-Times reported. He reportedly beat out 24 other applicants, including the interim CEO José Torres.
The Chicago system is about seven times larger than SAISD.
Martinez said he is excited to be going back to his hometown, where he was part of the CPS system since he was six years old.
“A city I love,” Martinez said. “A city where I grew up. Where it all started for me. My father brought us to this country.”
Martinez will be leaving SAISD very soon. He said he will be starting in Chicago at the end of the month.
“I’m very blessed that my district in San Antonio is in such a good position, I have a very strong team there and I’ve already talked to my board and they know that this is my hometown,” Martinez said. “My plan is to start the last week of Sept. right around Sept. 29th and really hit the ground running.”
In a statement on Wednesday morning, Martinez said he is grateful and “will always care deeply” about SAISD.
Read his full statement below:
I will always care deeply about San Antonio ISD. Although I’m leaving with a heavy heart, I know this district will not skip a beat in its pursuit of excellence on behalf of our children. The strongest organizations are those that are built to outlive us – to be sustainable beyond the current leadership. And SAISD clearly has the depth of talent and skill to move gracefully forward.
The Board and the staff are extremely effective at what they do, and SAISD is in a strong position for continued success. Strength runs deep throughout the district – amongst our Trustees and across campuses, classrooms, departments and advisory committees. I personally know how dedicated our Board members are to this community, to equity, and to student and family support. They are bold leaders, and under their guidance, the SAISD team has implemented nationally recognized safety practices, are executing the largest bond effort in district and city history, and have gathered the parent feedback to accomplish a thoughtful and inclusive multi-year ESSER plan.
Improving the lives of children through education has always been, and will always be, this district’s top priority. I am grateful to everyone within the SAISD family and throughout the San Antonio community for their support in embracing change – and in welcoming me. The admiration has been mutual.
SAISD board president Christina Martinez released the following statement about Martinez’s departure.
“It’s no surprise to us that Superintendent Martinez has been highly sought out. And as much as we hate to lose him, we know that the internal motivation that he has to go back to his hometown and work in the same public schools that raised him is deeper or stronger than any of us will ever understand. Our Board stands cohesively ready to embrace the next great superintendent. We are still on track to being a National Model Urban School District and our targets are still set on being an A-rated district. Our District is in a great position to recruit a nationally respected leader to lead our students, teachers, administrators and families into the future.”
An SAISD spokeswoman said the board will begin interviewing candidates for interim superintendent at its board meeting on Monday.
The outgoing superintendent has been at the forefront of the battle over school mandates.
After requiring SAISD employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-October, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued SAISD alleging the district had violated Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting vaccine mandates. A hearing on a temporary restraining order is set for Sept. 21 in Bexar County.
However, Alejandra Lopez, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, said, the mandates in place were “a collective effort.”
“Let’s not forget we actually started the school year without a mask mandate,” Lopez said. “Our union called on the school board to put one in place prior to putting thousands of people across the district at risk.”