Ramon C. Cortines

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Ramon Curtis Cortines (born July 22, 1932)[1] is an American educator who has served as the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District in Los Angeles, California three times, primarily from January 1, 2009 to April 16, 2011.

Cortines was born in San Antonio, Texas.[2] He briefly served as Superintendent of Schools in LA in 2000 and has headed a total of five school districts nationally.[3] Cortines had also served in the U.S. Army from 1953-1955.[4]

During the early 60's Mr. Ray Cortines served as Activity Director for Covina High School and later with South Hills (in West Covina) High School and soon moved up as the former Superintendent of Schools in the California cities of Pasadena, San Francisco, San Jose, along with being a former New York City Schools Chancellor. He was appointed to lead the New York City Schools in September 1993 by the former New York City Board of Education, serving during the last months of the administration of Mayor David Dinkins and during the first years of the administration of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Cortines and Giuliani feuded for much of their shared tenure, with Giuliani being critical of Cortines' running of the schools.[5] Cortines stepped down from the chancellorship in October 1995, going into the private sector.

Following his tenure in New York, Cortines served as a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education during the tenure of former Education Secretary Richard Riley.[6] Before accepting the chancellorship, Cortines had been nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary of Education for Intergovernmental Affairs by President Bill Clinton, but he withdrew his nomination before his was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Cortines served as LA's interim Superintendent for several months in 2000, before former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer assumed the position.

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. Cortines has also worked, if not continues to work, as a consultant for Eli Broad Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh.[7][8]

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.[9]

Tenure at Los Angeles Unified[edit]

While at LAUSD, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines had dual jobs as a board member from the Scholastic board and as Superintendent of LAUSD.[10] LA 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 that involved the educational publishing company. Cortines resigned from the Scholastic board on February 18, 2010.

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%.[11] 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.[12] 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,[13] 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.[14] 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.”[15] 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.[16]

Ramon Cortines retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District on April 16, 2011. In 2014, Cortines returned for a 3rd time to lead LAUSD following the resignation of Superintendent John Deasy.[17][18]

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution[edit]

Television personality, British chef and health campaigner Jamie Oliver came to Los Angeles in order to start a food revolution by studying school lunches and introducing healthy and tasty food alternatives. Cortines denied Oliver permission to film in LAUSD schools. Oliver found a loophole by filming in West Adams Preparatory High School, a partnership school run by MLA Partner Schools, with orders he would not be allowed in the kitchen. Oliver then moved to Manual Arts Senior High, another MLA Partner School, but was denied a permit by Cortines unless he could guarantee that LAUSD would be portrayed in a positive light.[19]

In an April 2011 interview with the Associated Press, Oliver contrasted Cortines's opposition with the support he had enjoyed from public officials during the show's original seasons in the UK, going all the way up to the Prime Minister: "I'm disappointed that as public servants, they feel they have the right to not be transparent."[20] In an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he suggested "there’s elements of backhandedness or certain things that shouldn’t be going on as far as procurement is concerned," possibly referencing cash rebates paid to the district by manufacturers of frozen, processed, and packaged foods.[21] Cortines stated his concern that "such reality TV programs can be disruptive to students."[22]

Career Box[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Harvey Garner (Interim)
Schools Chancellor of New York City
Succeeded by
Rudy Crew
Preceded by
Ruben Zacarias
Interim Superintendent of Schools of Los Angeles, California
Succeeded by
Roy Romer
Preceded by
New Position
Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, CA for Education, Youth and Families
Succeeded by
Miriam Long
Preceded by
David L. Brewer III
Superintendent of Schools of Los Angeles, California
January 1, 2009-April 16, 2011
Succeeded by
John Deasy
Preceded by
John Deasy
Superintendent of Schools of Los Angeles, California
October 2014-Present
Succeeded by


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3] Cortines Biography
  4. ^ [4] NY Times Bio of Cortines
  5. ^ [5] NY Daily News - Cortines resigns from NY
  6. ^ NY Daily News- Cortines hired by Ed Secretary
  7. ^ [6] Interview with Cortines
  8. ^ [7] Irvine Foundation - Cortines as ConnectED Board Member
  9. ^ L.A. Unified sees a familiar face in Ramon Cortines
  10. ^ [8] LA Times - Cortines resigns from Scholastic board
  11. ^ [9] Daily News - LAUSD watchdog office to be cut by 25%
  12. ^ [10] Daily News - Former LAUSD lawyer to be interim inspector
  13. ^ [11] Daily News - Big bucks for LAUSD consultants
  14. ^ [12] LA Times - Enivornmental firm accused of ‘egregious‘ overcharging of LAUSD
  15. ^ [13] Daily News discussing OIG audit
  16. ^ [14] Daily News discussing cancelled contracts
  17. ^ "LAUSD Superintendent Cortines Returns for 3rd Time". ABC 7 News. Retrieved 2014-10-23. 
  18. ^ "John Deasy Resigns". 2014-10-16. Retrieved 2014-10-23. 
  19. ^ [15] Cortines bans Jamie Oliver
  20. ^ Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" Undaunted by Obstacles in LA
  21. ^ [16] Jamie Oliver alleges kickbacks
  22. ^ [17] Cortines bans Jamie Oliver