LA School Closings

December/18/2015 10:22AM
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It’s always easy to second guess any decision regarding safety, but I won’t indulge in that. The superintendent’s decision to close the entire LA school system for the terrorist threat prompted me to ask another question. It seemed the gentleman who made the decision was quite old to be a school superintendent. Ramon Cortines is the man who made the decision. Again, this is not about the decision, it’s about Cortines.

ramon closes schools




This is from Wikipedia:


“From 2006 to 2008, Cortines served as LA’s Deputy Mayor for Education, Youth and Families in the Cabinet of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. As deputy mayor, Cortines oversaw education policy for the mayor, was his liaison to the school district, along with overseeing various agencies and policies impact children and families, including parks and recreation. Cortines left this position to become Senior Deputy Superintendent of Schools. In 2012, a year after Cortines retired, the district announced a $200,000 settlement with a mid-level administrator, Scot Graham, who accused Cortines of sexual harassment. The deal later unraveled and Graham sued Cortines and the district. One suit was dismissed on technical grounds, and a second suit was withdrawn, according to L.A. Unified.[8] After Cortines returned as superintendent in 2014, Scot Graham filed a new lawsuit with claims of sexual harassment against Cortines in February 2015.[3]

Los Angeles Unified[edit]

During one of his stints at LAUSD, Superintendent Cortines had dual jobs as a board member from the Scholastic board, and as Superintendent of LAUSD.[9] The Los Angeles Times reported that he was paid $150,000 while serving at the Scholastic board, in addition to $250,000 as Superintendent of LAUSD. Cortines defended his tenure at Scholastic, and claimed he avoided any issue which involved the educational publishing company. Cortines resigned from the Scholastic board on February 18, 2010.

Office of Inspector General[edit]

A notable controversy occurred six months after Cortines was named Superintendent of LAUSD, after he proposed to reduce funding for the Office of Inspector General (OIG) by 75%.[10] During this time, LAUSD was operating under a significant budget shortfall. The Inspector General of OIG, Jerry Thornton, a retired FBI agent, came to a compromise with Cortines to reduce OIG’s budget by 25% instead. Subsequently, Cortines and the LAUSD Board members refused to extend Thornton’s contract.[11] Thornton had previously produced audit and investigative reports that showed misuse of funds, lack of financial controls and many conflict-of-interest charges against senior district management. Notable reports include excessive consultant costs at the district’s construction program,[12] over $20 billion, largest in the country, as well as millions in excessive and unwarranted consultant charges against the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.[13] Cortines eventually suspended and replaced many of the senior staff mentioned in Thornton’s audits. Thorton left on June 30, 2010. Cortines selected, and the Board approved, Jess Womack, former deputy general counsel for the LAUSD construction program, as interim Inspector General. Interim Jess Womack continued OIG investigations of LAUSD senior management. A notable report was released four months after Jerry Thornton’s departure, which found “irregularities in $65 million worth of consultant contracts.”[14] This includes costs that exceeded pre-approved amounts by 50% and additional contracts worth $31 million without school board approval, specifically against James Sohn, Chief of Facilities, whom Cortines had hired to replace the prior chief, Guy Mehula. Cortines responded to this by canceling $3.7 million in consulting contracts cited in the report, but left open the possibility these consultants and contracts would return.[15] Cortines originally retired as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District on April 16, 2011. In June, 2011 the school board announced that the downtown high school for the arts would be renamed Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts.[16]

Third tenure[edit]

In 2014, Cortines returned for a third time to lead LAUSD following the resignation of Superintendent John Deasy.[17][18] On October 9, 2015, Cortines suspended all commercial film shoots at Los Angeles Unified schools.[19] On December 15, 2015, Cortines ordered all LAUSD schools to close for the day after receiving a bomb threat.[20] Cortines is retiring and his successor has not yet been named. The L.A. Board of Education met early Tuesday morning to discuss the school closures and to continue its discussions for a new schools’ chief, although Cortines remains in charge”

So when John Deasy, who seemed to be making progress with test scores and other key measurements resigned, this is the best the kids get, Cortines, an 83 year-old retread with a dubious history. When politicians run the educational system in this country, we get Cortines. The tragedy here is not the $24 million in federal funding the city may have lost by closing the schools, the chaos the closing caused, or any of that. The real tragedy is that the system was broken and someone who was past his prime and has a history of issues is responsible for the education of 600,000 kids.

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