This system has in the past been so focused on politics -- ethnic politics, personality politics -- that it has never been focused on making the school system work on behalf of children. If I can contribute to that, that's what I'm about.
WEEKLY:And is there any hope?
CORTINES:I believe that this system has hope. I wouldn't have come if I didn't believe that. There are many good things happening in schools -- not enough, but they are happening. There are teachers working hard. There are principals providing leadership. Sure, there are a lot of people standing in the corner, bellyaching and blaming somebody else. But there is definitely hope out there.
WEEKLY:You're not talking like a man who's only going to be in this job through June. A lot of the things you're talking about would take years to accomplish.
CORTINES: It doesn't take years.
WEEKLY:But how can this possibly be resolved in any permanently meaningful way by June?
CORTINES: It can be. The structures can be put in place. And the board has said that they are going to hire somebody who will carry that out to completion.
WEEKLY:How would you have felt if the board had ordered you to stay the course of your predecessor? Will that be a limitation in who they can hire?
CORTINES:The board has made that decision, and that is a policy issue. I said to the board, "I don't want to spend from early in the morning until late at night, six days a week, trying to improve things, if you are not going to carry it out to completion."
WEEKLY:Things are certainly moving forward, but they won't be finished by June. Why not stay on?
CORTINES:I didn't come on to do that. Remember that I came here at Dr. Zacarias' invitation to help him. I was happily retired on my ranch. I said to the people who were trying to recruit me that if the superintendent called, I would talk to him. He called. I came down on a Monday. And we worked things through. He was not dealt with as a professional and in a humane way. And I just don't like that. Remember, I was fired in Pasadena. I know how it feels. Anyway, that's how it all happened. When I came in, I was asked to slim the administration and reorganize the district. I found the school district was not about learning at all. The central-office culture was about perpetuating itself.
WEEKLY:If you were asked . . . if you werebegged by the board, would you stay two more years?