THE BLOG
10/24/2014 06:08 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

Change Agent Ray Cortines Tapped to Lead the Los Angeles Unified School District

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been needing a shake-up for decades.

Now the LAUSD school board has voted 7-0 to bring back Ray Cortines as interim superintendent of LAUSD.

Change can finally occur in a real and systematic manner, but Cortines needs to be made permanent superintendent in order to carry weight and power in decision making.

Ray Cortines has the experience and guts to make tough decisions that will rattle a monumental bureaucracy like the LAUSD. He will cut where budget waste is taking place.

We can no longer afford for tens of thousands of youth to continually drop out of school and for no one to be held accountable. Especially when it comes to scandals related to contracts, iPads, and the fiasco occurring at Jefferson High School.

Cortines makes sure that students come first. One of his major first achievements can be to implement ethnic studies courses within LAUSD.

The LAUSD School Board of Education once again is showing confidence in Cortines who needs to be given ample power and independence to hire the right administrators at LAUSD headquarters and principals at various schools.

Let's examine some of Cortines' history to better understand his talents and depth of intelligence.

Cortines' tough early-life experiences have shaped who he is now. He was adopted as a child and he is proud of his Mexican roots.

He served in the arm forces and became a coach/teacher within San Gabriel Valley area schools.

He rose up the ranks through hard work. And most importantly, he was in the trenches -- in the classrooms.

He understands the mind-set and needs of the poor, middle class, and wealthy parents and students. He has dealt with all social classes and ethnicities. Cortines became a strong educator and moved up the ranks of the Pasadena Unified School District and eventually was selected superintendent. He was in the middle of many battles that included desegregating the Pasadena public schools.

He was a strong and vocal leader for poor minority students. He could identify with their struggles. He believed in providing a top-quality education for all children, with no exceptions. Cortines is a tough and fair leader who implements and follows through with his ideas. He does not tolerate nonsense and demands for his employees to truly care about the well-being and academic achievement of all children.

Cortines takes the time to visit schools and the classroom. He talks to parents and students and treats them with dignity and respect.

He learned many life lessons while he worked at the Pasadena Unified School District. Believe me; if you can survive Pasadena, then you can survive anything in life.

He was terminated by the School Board of Education from the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) and they soon realized what a mistake they had made. The Board had to beg Cortines to return to be superintendent, which he did. The staff at PUSD was so happy and proud to have Cortines back.

He soon took on other challenging positions by becoming superintendent of schools in various major cities such as San Francisco, San Jose and even New York City. He also became a high-ranking education official in President Clinton's administration.

While he was chancellor of schools in New York, he was not intimidated to take on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Cortines demanded change and improvement among all New York City public schools but clashed with Giuliani's own political agenda and personality.

Cortines became interim superintendent for LAUSD from 1999-2000, then 2009-2011, and now he is back again.

He now has an opportunity to reshape, restructure and create positive change at the district.
Cortines is a factory of ideas and driven to accomplish change. Cortines has the energy of a 30-year-old. He is no puppet or pushover and he is independently wealthy.

He has no financial interests and will not allow himself to be in any politician's hip pocket.
Let's just hope that the school board trusts in him and allows him to make immediate changes from top to bottom. No sacred cows allowed - so give em' hell Ray.

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Randy Jurado Ertll is a teacher and author of the book "The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7." www.randyjuradoertll.com