Ramon C. Cortines

Ramon Curtis Cortines (born 1932)[1] is an American educator who has served as the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District in Los Angeles, California. Cortines returned as Los Angeles superintendent in October 2014, and his contract was extended in June 2015 for another year, through June 2016.[2]

Early life and careerEdit

Cortines was born in San Antonio, Texas.[3] He briefly served as Superintendent of Schools in LA in 2000 and has headed a total of five school districts nationally.[4] Cortines had also served in the U.S. Army from 1953-1955.[5]

During the early 1960s 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.

Los Angeles Deputy MayorEdit

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 UnifiedEdit

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 GeneralEdit

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 tenureEdit

In 2014, Cortines returned for a third time to lead LAUSD following the resignation of Superintendent John Deasy.[17][18]

On December 15, 2015, Cortines ordered all LAUSD schools to close for the day after receiving a bomb threat.[19] 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.[20]


Academic offices
Preceded by
Carlos V. Cornejo (interim)
Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District
Succeeded by
Waldemar "Bill" Rojas
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, California 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-June 2016
Succeeded by
Michelle King


  1. ^ "Ramon Cortines Retires: LAUSD Superintendent To Step Down By Spring". The Huffington Post.
  2. ^ "L.A. Unified extends contract of Supt. Ramon Cortines". LA Times. Retrieved 2015-12-15.
  3. ^ "Outstanding Young Men of America". google.ca.
  4. ^ "Ramon C. Cortines" (DOC). Los Angeles Unified School District. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  5. ^ "Schools Chief Seen as Intense, Effective Manager". New York Times. September 5, 1993. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ Los Angeles Times (16 October 2014). "L.A. Unified sees a familiar face in Ramon Cortines". latimes.com.
  9. ^ "Ramon Cortines resigns from Scholastic board". latimes.com.
  10. ^ "LAUSD watchdog office to be cut by 25%". dailynews.com.
  11. ^ "Former LAUSD lawyer to be interim inspector". dailynews.com.
  12. ^ "Big bucks for LAUSD consultants". dailynews.com.
  13. ^ "Environmental firm accused of 'egregious' overcharging of L.A. Unified School District". latimes.com.
  14. ^ "School district finds irregularities in $65M worth of contracts". dailynews.com.
  15. ^ "LAUSD officials cancel $3.7M contract with consultants after report discloses deal's irregularities". dailynews.com.
  16. ^ School Board press release, June 14, 2011. Retrieved 2015-10-30
  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. ^ "Los Angeles Shuts All Schools After Bomb Threat". NBC News. Retrieved 2015-12-15.
  20. ^ "L.A. schools to reopen Wednesday; threat against schools was 'not credible,' officials say". latimes.com. Retrieved 2015-12-16.