The Breakfast Conversation: Ramon Cortines

We talked education with Ramon Cortines at The Foundry on Melrose. Read highlights of what the LA Unified School District Superintendent had to say

Photograph by Forest Casey

Ramon Cortines, Superintendent of the LA Unified School District, took a few hours out of the chaos that is his job to chat with Los Angeles magazine Editor-in-Chief Kit Rachlis for our 4th b-fast conversation. Former State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, School Board VP Yolie Flores Aguilar, and Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief (nice Villaraigosa cover) Rob Eshman were among those who stopped by The Foundry on Melrose’s patio to listen to the supe explain why he remains hopeful despite the budget crisis and ask questions about the state of our schools. Cortines, the former superintendent for Pasadena, San Francisco, San Jose, and New York, was appointed to the LAUSD’s top spot on January 1 of this year. If we can muster as much energy and be as fit as him by the time we’re 76, Hallelujah. Some select quotes:

On how he’s handling the district’s current fight with the union:
“The union has to be a part of the solution…I wont let them abdicate the system.”

“They’ll be camping out at my house protesting and that’s not something I will enjoy.”

“I’m trying to save the union from itself.”

“You’ve got to learn to fuss with each other. But you can’t abandon each other.”

“I drink more glasses of white wine in the evenings. It’s medicinal.”

On next steps:
“I don’t support a breakup now… You need to give me some time to see if I can get us on a trajectory, and if I can’t, with the board and with others, then you need to go there… What the system needs now, it doesn’t have to be me, is a benevolent dictator, and it needs it for a period of time, probably 3 to 5 years and then you need to turn it back to the community.”

On why he looks for community input:
“I have feet of clay up to my eyeballs on most days, and somebody needs to check on that.”

On today’s situation: 
“As a classroom teacher I did more planning than I am doing in running this district because of what is hitting me.”

On the cancellation of summer school:
“It’s a city issue. We need to come together as the LA Basin and take care of our young people.”

Click here to hear the conversation