Former Metro Schools Director Dr. Pedro Garcia dies at 72

Posted at 9:11 AM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 11:28:27-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Former Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Dr. Pedro Garcia has died at age 72.

Garcia died July 20 at his home in Clarinda, Iowa, according to an obituary. A cause of death was not immediately known.

He served as Metro Schools Director for seven years.

Coming to Nashville in 2001, Garcia immediately pushed for changes to improve the school system -- using a straight-ahead leadership approach that caught some off guard.

In 2002, he reassigned 53 principals to different schools -- a controversial move designed to place strong leadership in the right places.

The strategy ended up earning praise but not all of Garcia's ideas were so popular.

He often butted heads with the teacher's union and upset parents by reassigning the district's academically gifted program director.

On several occassions, Garcia's name was linked with job opportunities outside of Nashville.

in 2004, he was a finalist for a similar job in Miami.

Reviews of student achievement during Garcia's time in Nashville were mixed. While graduation rates in the district improved steadily throughout his tenure, math, reading and ACT scores lagged behind the rest of the state.

The district also failed to meet state testing standards for the last four years of his tenure.

A NewsChannel 5 investigation also discovered that Garcia's administration had ignored warning about special needs students being sexually assaulted on the district's buses.

Garcia's relationship with the school board was rocky too. It eventually led to the two sides agreeing to part ways in 2008, with Garcia receiving a $216,000 buyout.

In the end, he blamed controversy over a district-wide rezoning for his downfall.

“Unfortunately, this is a racially charged issue," Garcia wrote in a memo.

"I took the stand to oppose re-segregating the district. It was the right stand, and I would do it again.”