Twin Rivers picks Fresno school official as new superintendent

Published: Wednesday, May. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 8, 2013 - 7:52 pm

Twin Rivers Unified has selected Steve Martinez, an assistant superintendent at the Fresno Unified School District, as its next superintendent.

The school board voted Monday to approve the choice, pending contract negotiations, at a special board meeting in Fresno, according to district officials contacted by The Bee. The board is expected to finalize the hiring at its meeting Thursday night in North Highlands.

Martinez has been an assistant superintendent, principal, assistant principal, coach and science and math teacher in his 12 years in education, according to his résumé. He has a doctorate in educational leadership from California State University, Fresno.

"He met all the qualifications our community wanted, including K-12 experience," said board member Michael Baker. "The (Fresno) district has a good reputation for turning assistant superintendents into good superintendents. He is all about children and what is best for the children."

Many Twin Rivers leaders hope Martinez can lead the north area school district beyond its troubled past.

The superintendent search began after former Superintendent Frank Porter retired in June amid controversy that included an investigation into the district's Police Department. The agency faced allegations of towing cars to raise money and excessive force.

"Something that was lacking for all of us was a good leader," said board member Rebecca Sandoval. "(Martinez) is not the kind of guy that sits in the ivory tower. He gets into the schools and talks with the principals and empowers principals, teachers and students."

Board member Linda Fowler says Martinez has always been her first choice. "I was impressed with Dr. Martinez from the first interview," she said after being contacted by The Bee.

In his résumé, Martinez said Fresno Unified increased its graduation rate and boosted the number of students accepted at four-year colleges during his tenure at the 73,000-student district.

Martinez also said in his résumé that Clovis East High School saw increased test scores when he served as principal, resulting in recognition as a California State Distinguished School in 2007 and a National Blue Ribbon School in 2008.

"I set a goal to become a superintendent because I have a passion for the success of all students," said Martinez in a letter to the firm hired to conduct the superintendent search. He did not return a call for an interview.

Martinez, who lists his salary as assistant superintendent of school leadership at $128,000, is likely to make more at Twin Rivers Unified. Area superintendent salaries hover around $200,000. His salary is still being negotiated and has yet to be announced.

After Porter retired, the district tapped Foothill High School Principal Joseph Williams to be interim superintendent during the search process. Williams' contract stipulates that he would become an associate superintendent if he were not selected for the top job.

District officials held four community forums to gather information about the leadership skills residents in the 31,000-student district wanted in a superintendent. They appointed a community committee to review applications.

Community members said they wanted a superintendent from outside the school district – and the four former districts that make it up – to avoid favoritism. The district has struggled with infighting since it was formed from four districts in 2007.

The board interviewed six candidates last week before narrowing the field to two.

Five board members traveled to Fresno to interview Martinez's references. The board members interviewed about 27 people – board members, site principals, parents, teachers, administrators and the superintendent, Sandoval said.

"Everyone spoke so highly of him and provided us with concrete examples of things he had done and how he had moved the district forward," she said. "It was impressive."

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Read her Report Card blog at

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