Cortines praises district efforts on his last ‘first day of school’
Mike Szymanski | August 18, 2015
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It was already the end of the first day for most LA Unified schools today, but for Superintendent Ramon Cortines, the day was far from over.
At 2:30 p.m., he stopped in and thanked the MiSiS computer team for avoiding the computer crisis that occurred at the opening of school last year.
“The biggest reason that it was all a problem last year is that nobody owned the problem before,” Cortines reflected outside the MiSiS Control Center of the 10th floor of the LAUSD headquarters on Beaudry Ave. “I have owned every problem. A superintendent has to own it.”
He said he found the right people to work on the job and called in people from retirement. But frankly, he said, he was worried.
“Honestly, I tell you, I was not sure that we could do it,” Cortines sighed. “I wasn’t very patient. This last week there were those little things that get you. But they did it.”
Overall, the superintendent, who is retiring (again), said this last “first-day-of-school” ended up starting pretty well.
“First of all, there was a teacher in every classroom, there was enough support staff, there was a principal in every school,” Cortines said. “You can’t ask a student to study and pay attention if you don’t have a teacher.”
Cortines started his day at 6:05 a.m. going into the MiSiS Control Center and checking things out. Then, he and Michelle King, the assistant superintendent, called all the Local District superintendents to see if they were having any issues at their schools.
“I know which schools have been struggling, and I watch out for them,” Cortines said. “We have a lot of new principals and assistant principals, and we have to put the finger on the problem fast and deal with it quickly.”
He said that the bathrooms were cleaner this year at the start of school because the district was able to hire more custodial staff, and the graffiti was off all the schools.
“I went to Jefferson (High School) which is an older school and a teacher said, ‘Ray, thank you for trimming the trees this year,’” Cortines said. “How a school appears changes what happens inside, and you don’t have to have a brand new school.”
Cortines said he went to Markham Middle School where a worker was laying cement in front of the school. “He took off his glove and shook my hand and thanked me for caring, and I told him I wanted to appreciate what he does for the school,” Cortines said. “I don’t know how to lay cement.”
And, as far as the computer system, Cortines admitted, “I’m not a techie; I tell everyone to remember that. What this district needs is management. I know a little bit about everything that affects these students and over 80,000 employees in this district.”
Toward the end of the day, Cortines walked into a different room where a Microsoft crew had come from different parts of the country to help deal with technical computer issues.
“Please tell the big guns I was not always pleasant to them and I thank you,” Cortines said. “There will be bumps in the road but months and years from now you will have helped us be able to stand on our own. You’ve been a great team.”
Cortines finally managed a smile, and said, “I think the district is in a Renaissance. I feel really good about this new start.”