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Leadership Profile

Ramon Cortines, Superintendent, LAUSD

May 2009

Job: Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system.

Salary: $250,000 (Cortines voluntarily took a salary $50K less than his predecessor in acknowledgement
of the district’s budget woes.)

Resume Highlights: From 2006 to 2008, he was the deputy mayor for education, youth, and families for the city of Los Angeles. He was an independent education consultant from 2001 to 2006. Since 1956, Mr. Cortines has served six school districts, including as superintendent of schools for Pasadena (11 years), San Jose (2 years), New York City (2 years), San Francisco (6 years), and Los Angeles (6 months).

Age: 77. “I’ve retired seven times—actually, I’ve flunked retirement seven times. I decided in fourth grade that I was always going to be a teacher. I still am a teacher. Educators need to constantly be learners, need to constantly be engaged. That is who we are.”

Philosophy: “The success of any school is never about an individual. If a school is successful, it’s about the ‘we.’ The ‘we’ has to include teachers, parents, community leaders, and our students.”

Biggest Challenge: The LAUSD has a budget shortfall of $718 million. In March, the board sent more than 8,800 pink slips to district teachers and employees. “I will be recommending sending notification to a great many employees,” Cortines told the board of education. “And I don’t want us to confuse notification with losing a job. Notification is because funds have been cut. Notification is for reorganization ... [it’s] for living within our budget.”

The upside: “I see the economic downturn as an opportunity to think differently. Not the same-old, same-old. We should ‘scheme’ as to how things might be better. If it fits neatly, you aren’t taking a risk.”

His goal for his district
: “We have to find new ways of providing services to parents, working with teachers,  working with administrators, and working with the community. We must put the students first—not special interests. And so there will be change and change will be good for all of us.”                         

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