During times of economic stress a good human resources leader is invaluable. Adequately staffing schools has become extremely challenging in an era when schools have suffered massive cuts to education funding.
This is one of the challenges that Rob Martinez, director of human resources for Fairfield-Suisun USD, has faced over the past few years. That he has done so successfully has earned him recognition as ACSA’s 2012 Human Resources Administrator of the Year.
One of the biggest principles behind his success has been the value he has placed on relationships. He said this has served him well during his 25 years with the district.
“Whether it was the relationship between a parent and child, a teacher with the parents of a student, or a principal with their staff, the relationship mattered,” Martinez said. “So as a school psychologist, a principal, and now for the last six years as the director of human resources, I have continued to be drawn to building, fostering and sustaining relationships. I believe that by facilitating healthy relationships with all of our constituents and stakeholders that we all actually add to the broader educational foundation that we provide our students in the context of our school district.”
This belief was echoed by Principal Martha Lacy in a letter of support for the ACSA award.
“(Martinez) cares about all the employees of the district and is vigilant about meeting their needs and addressing their concerns,” she wrote.
Martinez said that as HR director he can work with all district staff, the school board and the superintendent to collaboratively supply exceptional support structures for teachers to do the work they do on a day-to-day basis to improve the lives of students.
“This is significantly gratifying work given the great struggles that public education has been put through over recent years,” he said.
Despite his hard efforts, and those of all educators in Fairfield-Suisun USD, Martinez noted the district has had to cut far too many programs and services to students. But he and the FSUSD administrative team, along with employee representative groups, have continued to collaboratively strive to reach agreements in these difficult times.
“We have often agreed to out of the box solutions in response to some of these cuts, and have focused on sustainable solutions for the greater good of students, rather than to have turned on each other,” Martinez said. “To say it has been challenging is an understatement. However, through each difficult decision, each difficult negotiation, and each sustainable solution reached, we as a district have been able to maintain incredible academic pro-grams for all of our students, who have in turn made tremendous academic gains.”
In recent years, Fairfield-Suisun USD has lowered its dropout rate, increased the graduation rate, increased its API score, and has seen schools exit Program Improve-ment.
“Our team effort and consolidated focus on what is in the best interests for students has made this difficult time one of ingenuity and creativity, as we have resolved to maintain academic excellence for our students. We have surely found opportunity in the crisis that is around us,” Martinez said.
During these extremely challenging times, Martinez said communication is the key to maintaining good relationships with all bargaining units.
“We keep the lines of communication open by phone call, email, text, and if needed, we exchange formal documents,” he said. “We take the time to discuss even the smallest of issues with due diligence, and we take great care to not presume to know what the other side is thinking.
“Over the past few years we have transitioned to Interest Based Bargaining procedures to resolve a number of issues with our teacher representative group, and we have significantly infused trust into this relationship for both sides. Even though we might not always agree on all issues, we have taken strides to not apply motives to the other side’s actions, and we strive to work from a perspective of positive intent and real respect.”
Martinez said that when you work to see the positive intent in another’s actions, you can actually find more ways of understanding someone’s needs and interests; thus leading to better agreements that meet the district’s and employee representative groups’ needs and interests.
“In the end it’s all about ensuring more and better opportunities for our students,” he said.
Martinez’s knowledge and background also led to him being asked to oversee the district’s Technology Department during a time of transition, as well as providing a logistical plan and direct support for the development of the Matt Garcia Learning Center School.
Martinez has been a very active member of ACSA. He is currently the Region 4 vice-president for legislative action, and also serves on the Regions 1-4 Conference Committee, chairing that group this year.
He also served on the state Leadership Summit Committee in 2010, and actively participates in ACSA’s Legislative Action Day.
Martinez said this award makes him feel very humbled, and also proud to be part of ACSA and what ACSA stands for: preserving and improving the quality of life through public education.
“From an early age I had a passion for public education,” he said. “While I was growing up in Southern California, my mother, Rose Castruita-Martinez, was one of the first home liaison aides in the Baldwin Park Unified School District. I remember her truly enjoying her work as a classified employee. She worked with teachers, administrators and other classified folks to ensure opportunities were made available for many Hispanic and migrant families. She believed that each child and their family needed an opportunity to come to school, learn, and be part of the community.
“I believe this passion to help others stuck with me during my career search, which led me to school psychology, and beyond.”
Martinez said the award made him stop and reflect on his career thus far.
“I’ve truly enjoyed the many roles that I have had during my 25 years in education, and find myself to be more passionate than ever regarding being part of a public education system that seeks to provide expanding opportunities for all students in the Fairfield-Suisun communities,” he said. “I truly feel blessed to be part of a system that seeks to educate the masses, and seeks to provide equitable opportunities for all students.
“I’m very fortunate for the opportunities that I have had. I’d like to think that my career is still just getting going, because I look forward to providing many more years of service to the children of California, and to continuing to build relationships with others who continue to seek to improve public education.”
Martinez will be honored along with all of ACSA’s 2012 Administrators of the Year during the Leadership Summit, Nov. 8-10 in San Diego. To register, visit www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit.
Access photos of award recipients at www.flickr.com/photos/acsaevents.