Probably no one has flunked retirement worse than Ray Cortines. At 82, he’s signed on to steer the Los Angeles Unified School District for the third time.
Twice before he served as an interim superintendent, and he held the post for three years immediately before John Deasy’s tenure.
Cortines understands big city school systems. In addition to Los Angeles, he was superintendent of New York, San Francisco, Pasadena and San Jose. But why Ray again?
The answers are straightforward: peacemaking and getting things done.
The school board and the education policy elites (maybe) are tired of toxic warfare. Cortines has a reputation of someone who can have a constructive relationship with the teachers and administrative unions without being a doormat. He both charmed and bludgeoned the school board, threatening to resign if they misbehaved. (Unlike most superintendents, he had a 30-day contract, which he would periodically threaten to not renew.)
And then there is the craft and politics of getting things done. Most politicians, and most journalists, ignore the politics of implementation. To them, reforming schools is about getting the right law passed or achieving a favorable court decision. But as past school reform efforts in Los Angeles illustrate, the heavy lifting starts after decisions are made, not before.
Holding the school board together, implementing an agreement with the union when some teachers balk, attracting administrative leadership: all this is part of the political kitbag of seasoned superintendents. Cortines is one of them. Continue reading