The press release, whether deliberate or not, was sent out late in the news cycle on a Friday evening–6:43 p.m. to be exact. 17 months after officially taking the helm at the Los Angeles Unified School District, Superintendent David L. Brewer III finally hired a senior deputy superintendent to oversee curriculum and instruction at the second largest public schools system in the nation. His name is Ramon C. Cortines, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's now former deputy mayor for education.
It has been a long and weird ride for Brewer to make such a fundamental hire–solid curriculum and instruction, after all, is the main business of public education–but he appears to have his man in a 75-year-old, veteran educator who was the interim superintendent of LA Unified in 2000.
“In Mr. Cortines we have brought in an exceptional leader with strong academic credentials and the day-to-day management experience we need to ensure the success of our most important academic initiatives,” Brewer said in the press release.
Cortines, for his part, released this statement: “I am very enthusiastic to work with, and for, Superintendent Brewer as we move forward on behalf of the students, parents and guardians, staff and administrators of the LAUSD community.”
The Board of Education now needs to finalize the deal, but Board President Monica Garcia is already gushing with her own prepared take. “I am proud to support Superintendent Brewer's selection of Ray Cortines as Deputy Superintendent,” she said in the official press release. “Mr. Cortines is an extraordinary leader and will make an invaluable contribution to our efforts to transform our LAUSD.”
So, everyone seems to be on board, and notice how Cortines specifically mentioned he's working “for” Brewer, and not the other way around. We'll see. Already insiders are wondering about the terms of Cortines's contract, such as, is there a set duration for his time at LA Unified? Two years? Three years? And does the contract make it clear who and how staffers will report to him and Brewer? Also, is Cortines tied to some kind of performance standard he must meet or surpass? It should also be remembered that Garcia is a strong ally of Villaraigosa's, which will obviously keep the rumors flying around 333 South Beaudry–LA Unified HQ–that the mayor is subtly taking over the school system.
Garcia and Brewer may also be getting a few surprises. While the board prez and superintendent love any kind of program with the word “innovation” attached to it, Cortines is more of a back-to-basics educator. For an interesting profile on Cortines, check out this link to an old New York Times article: https://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE5DB113EF936A3575AC0A965958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
There are always little dramas, even tragic comedies, playing out at 333 South Beaudry, but with Cortines now joining the cast, the next several months are bound to be one of the most interesting real life shows in town. In that kind of environment, however, it can be very easy for students to get second billing.