For months, Pedro Martinez has been locked in a political struggle over the safety of colleges in Texas. As the superintendent in San Antonio, he defied Gov. Greg Abbott by issuing a mask mandate in schools. He was the only superintendent of a significant Texas school district to call for college workers to be vaccinated, prompting a lawsuit from the Texas attorney standard.
Now, Mr. Martinez, 51, is heading to a a lot more like-minded ecosystem. He will direct Chicago General public Universities, the 3rd-premier school technique in the country — one particular that previously mandates vaccines for workforce, and needs masks in the classroom.
We caught up with Mr. Martinez on Friday for a vast-ranging dialogue about his partnership with Governor Abbott, his situation on vaccine mandates for students and his homecoming to Chicago, the place he grew up. The job interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You were at the centre of some of the major political fights above universities in Texas for the duration of the pandemic. Can you stroll us as a result of some of what transpired powering the scenes?
We started out the official first working day of college on Aug. 9. We had far more situations in the 1st 7 days of university than we experienced in any 7 days during last year’s pandemic. That immediately fearful us. The bulk of them had been learners. And even when we appeared at the workers, we had been commencing to see breakthrough instances of vaccinated staff. So which is what drove our conclusion to first have a mask mandate, and then we followed it up with a vaccine mandate.
I decided to do the vaccine mandate mainly because the governor wouldn’t make it possible for me to ask for vaccination proof for my personnel. I reported, we just cannot manage by way of this pandemic if I really don’t even have the primary data. To this day, we are the only district in Texas that has had this vaccine mandate. We are nonetheless preventing in courtroom. So much, I have only had 10 workers out of 8,000 that have said, “I’m not going to get a vaccine.” We do have about 120 requests for exemptions for both medical or spiritual, but again, that is out of 8,000 workforce.
Did you fulfill with Governor Abbott in excess of the very last calendar year and a 50 percent?
We were being all in a pandemic. There was very minimal finished in phrases of interaction. I have a substantial respect for the point out education and learning commissioner. He and I have a great romance. I was normally supplying him a heads-up whenever we ended up going to do a little something. But other than that, I in no way had any immediate contact with the governor.
Did the political atmosphere perform a element in your decision to leave?
No, not at all. Not so substantially about Covid. One of the components that did enjoy in me heading back again to Chicago, not only is it my hometown, but when I met Mayor Lori Lightfoot, I discovered that her values were being aligned. She is a winner for our small children in poverty, she is a champion for our young children of color.
The last time we spoke, you expressed a require for “bold leadership” all around coronavirus vaccines. So considerably, just a person large faculty district — Los Angeles Unified — has needed vaccines for learners. Do you program to mandate vaccines for learners in Chicago?
It’s one particular of the factors I definitely want to examine. I certainly feel that really should be performed at the national amount. If it is a environment disaster — I really do not imagine it really should be at the district level. We all know how essential it is to have children in man or woman in college. We all, for the most portion, concur on that. So why should not there be some daring motion at the national amount?
Have you talked to the training secretary, Miguel Cardona, or the White Residence?
I have talked to their staff, but I will convey to you, I will be talking to Secretary Cardona today. He is calling me to welcome me to Chicago.
Will you be bringing it up?
Certainly I am.
Just to be obvious: Are you a proponent of college student vaccine mandates in Chicago?
I consider it ought to be on the table.
Just one of your biggest challenges in Chicago will be navigating a contentious connection involving your new boss, Mayor Lightfoot, and the Chicago Academics Union. What do you see as the key disagreements in that dispute? What do you individually prepare to do to help take care of that?
I am not naïve. I know there are some political divides that run pretty deep. But when it arrives to, for case in point, the safety of our youngsters, our small children staying in college in individual, our universities being safe, there has to be common ground there.
You will be the very first Latino chief govt of Chicago Community Educational institutions, in which Hispanic students make up virtually 50 percent of the university student system. What is your message to them?
The sum of delight that I’ve witnessed, it’s just been very humbling for me. Chicago is a massive immigrant spouse and children. There has been a whole lot of outreach from different households sharing their satisfaction, and faculties inquiring me to appear pay a visit to with their little ones.
I want to be incredibly clear. I am heading to be really intense in my outreach to the African American group. The African American group in Chicago has always felt that they are frankly, next- or third-course citizens. I require to make certain coming in — whether or not I am Latino or not — to mail a very clear concept that I am going to do every little thing in my electrical power to be certain there is equity. I am going to be the champion for all little ones.
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine procedures. On Aug. 23, the Food items and Drug Administration granted full acceptance to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for men and women 16 and up, paving the way for an boost in mandates in both equally the community and personal sectors. Private organizations have been significantly mandating vaccines for personnel. This sort of mandates are lawfully authorized and have been upheld in court difficulties.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Ailment Manage and Avoidance in July recommended that all People, regardless of vaccination position, have on masks in indoor community locations within just regions going through outbreaks, a reversal of the steerage it offered in May well. See in which the C.D.C. assistance would utilize, and where states have instituted their very own mask insurance policies. The fight above masks has develop into contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying point out bans.
- College or university and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are demanding college students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for instruction employees. A study produced in August identified that several American parents of university-age youngsters are opposed to mandated vaccines for learners, but were additional supportive of mask mandates for college students, teachers and personnel associates who do not have their pictures.
- Hospitals and health-related centers. Many hospitals and significant overall health methods are necessitating staff members to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly small vaccination fees in their communities, even inside their do the job drive.
- New York Town. Proof of vaccination is required of employees and buyers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor predicaments, although enforcement does not start off right up until Sept. 13. Teachers and other instruction workers in the city’s large college method will want to have at minimum 1 vaccine dose by Sept. 27, with no the selection of weekly testing. City medical center workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly screening. Similar principles are in put for New York Point out employees.
- At the federal degree. The Pentagon declared that it would request to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million energetic-obligation troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden declared that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated towards the coronavirus or post to typical tests, social distancing, mask demands and constraints on most journey.
On a own notice, I’ve read through that you have three sisters who are teachers in Chicago Community Educational facilities, and you have one thing like 30 nieces and nephews in the method.
With my youngsters, there are overall of 30 grandchildren — 28 nephews and nieces. Some are babies and are potential C.P.S. pupils, some are at present in C.P.S. as college students currently, and some are really graduates already.
So how do your sisters sense about their brother getting to be their new boss?
They are pretty proud, and I will just say this: They are staunch, staunch union supporters. One of my sisters had to protect me due to the fact it acquired a minimal damaging in the C.T.U. Fb website. My sister experienced to talk up and say, glance, let me share with you who my brother is. I in fact raised my two youthful sisters — a single of my siblings died in a vehicle accident and it just decimated my mom and dad — so I lifted them from a young age. A person of them is a kindergarten teacher and a staunch union supporter. She made it clear in her concept that she’s all about the union — and in simple fact she explained, glance, I’ll assistance you keep him accountable — but give him a opportunity.
My colleagues in the Chicago bureau explain to me I would be remiss if I did not ask this: Cubs or White Sox?
I am a Sox admirer because I grew up with my father likely to Comiskey Park. A few bucks in the bleachers, and it was always on bat day, or cap working day.
Deep dish or tavern-style pizza?
I like both of those, but I will say I like the tavern-design and style pizza.
We are in a essential moment in instruction, with so several million kids needing help. If you could wave a magic wand currently, what do you consider is required in this moment?
What I would like is if I could get rid of the panic of our staff members and mom and dad. Previous 12 months was a challenging yr for everybody. A ton of psychological health problems. I am happy that schools are open this calendar year and that lecture rooms have all of our small children, but the anxiety is however there. That is why I have been lobbying and advocating for much more, bolder action at the national level, in particular all-around vaccines.
We really do not know nevertheless the ramifications that have occurred due to the fact of this pandemic to our small children in poverty and of shade. For example, my class of 2020, numerous of the children really put on keep their higher education ideas. We partnered with the town of San Antonio, and we have been ready to reconnect hundreds of my graduates to make positive they go to university. But it took us owning case managers. So I worry. How many learners are in limbo for the reason that they decided to postpone university? What are the ramifications?