The Stanislaus County Office of Education recently learned that long time Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools, Martin G. Petersen, passed away in Modesto on July 27 at the age of 88, surrounded by his family.
Petersen began his career in education as a teacher in the Turlock Elementary School District in 1961. Thirty years later, in 1991, he was elected Stanislaus County’s Superintendent of Schools, following many years as a site and district office administrator. He retired on Jan. 9, 2007, after 16 years in office.
During his leadership at SCOE, Petersen initiated a number of programs, showing his determination to be on the cutting edge of educational issues. Dedicated to quality and continuous improvement, he brought Total Quality Management to SCOE in 1993. Through programs such as STANREAD, a literacy program, the Youth Entertainment Stage Company, at the time geared to keeping at-risk youth out of trouble, and After School Learning Programs, providing children with meaningful and safe activities after school, his commitment to children in Stanislaus County was evident. In addition, he formed the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County to support supplemental education opportunities. Today the Education Foundation continues to support student events, outdoor education, and the Youth Entertainment Stage Company.
Petersen was known as a collaborator and people often came to him with new ideas. In 1997, he partnered with several community agencies to develop the Condition of Children Conference – to raise awareness of issues affecting children. After the first conference, 250 people made commitments to help children in their communities. He also saw the need for gang prevention, and worked with then-Sheriff Les Weidman to establish a Gang Prevention Intervention Task Force.
In 2006, Petersen received the Ferd Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award from the Association of California School Administrators at their annual conference. According to ACSA administrators, the award, ACSA’s highest honor, is presented annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to education. It is named after Ferd Kiesel, ACSA’s founding president. In 2006, Petersen was also named Superintendent of the Year by ACSA Region VII.
“Martin Petersen definitely left a mark on education in Stanislaus County,” said current County Superintendent of Schools Scott Kuykendall. “He strongly believed in providing vocational and career education opportunities for students, and his legacy continues today with many programs that he put into place years ago.”