Pedro Martinez left the post of superintendent for Washoe County Schools this week, marking the end of a tumultuous series of events over the past several months that has prompted intense scrutiny of the board of trustees from the community. As the district closes this rocky chapter, Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss caught up with Traci Davis, the new interim superintendent to learn more about her background and priorities moving forward.
For the past two years, Davis has worked side-by-side with Martinez as deputy superintendent. They first became colleagues back in Clark County, and when he was hired for Washoe in 2012, Martinez asked Davis to join his administrative team up North.
"I was in Clark when it was booming," Davis says, "and I remember teaching fourth grade with forty kids in my classroom, right. So, I've had a variety of experiences working with at-risk, Title I schools to schools that were affluent, and so I think I have a very interesting background because I've seen a spectrum."
Along with being an elementary school teacher, Davis has worked her way up the chain of command as an assistant principal, principal, and area superintendent. In 2011, she was nationally recognized for her work in transforming an at-risk school.
The board of trustees has appointed Davis as the district's interim leader through the middle of next year. She says her plan right now is to "stay the course" by continuing to support the county's strategic vision, which includes helping more students cross the finish line that is graduation.
Despite any heightened emotions surrounding Pedro Martinez's unexpected departure, Davis says teachers and staff across the county are staying focused on the kids.
"We do understand that there were things happening, but principals and teachers came to work every day doing what they were going to do," she explains. "It didn't change their work. Maybe people have their feelings, but we didn't expose those feelings; we talked about the work we have to continue doing for students."
The ordeal began back in July during a dispute over Martinez's background as a certified public accountant. Since then, he filed a wrongful-termination suit and six of the seven trustees were fined for breaking the state's open meeting law. Some community members are still calling on various board members to resign.