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Cortines pushes ahead, restructures LAUSD Educational Service Centers

Vanessa Romo | March 25, 2015

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ISICSuperintendent Ramon Cortines made it official late yesterday, restructuring LA Unified’s Educational Service Centers into geographically based offices, a move that adds two new centers and eliminates the Intensive Support and Innovation Center that worked across the district.

The centers are regional resource offices serving schools and students within their designated boundaries; they facilitate school operations, implement directives from the board at the school level and operate as parent engagement and outreach centers. Each is run by an “Instructional Area Superintendent,” appointed by the superintendent.

Under the reorganization, schools currently in the ISIC will report to the district where they are located. What is now the North ESC will be split into two centers, Northeast and Northwest. The boundaries of the East and South ESCs will also be re-drawn to create a new Central office. The changes go into effect July 1 and require no approval by the school board.

“I have championed local control since my first tenure as Superintendent when I organized LAUSD into local districts,” Cortines said in a letter to district employees late yesterday. “I am now taking the next step toward community empowerment by organizing LAUSD into six regions that are geographically based.”

The ISIC office was created under former Superintendent John Deasy in an effort to provide more targeted services for students with unique needs, everything from special needs services to gifted and talented instruction. In all, it serves 149 schools and approximately 100,000 students throughout LA Unified, including the district’s pilot schools.

Mary Melvin, a principal of Porter Ranch Community School, a pilot school in the San Fernando Valley, says she has mixed feelings about the changes.

“ISIC has been terrific for us, but geographically for my teachers it will be a great deal easier to get professional development services closer to home,” she said.

“I was lucky and had a fabulous director this year, but as the northern-most school in LAUSD, we can definitely do without the drive downtown,” she added.

Cortines argued that the system set up by Deasy created “unnecessary complications” for teachers and parents in some cases by requiring schools on the same campus to report to different ESCs. That will no longer be the case.

Another outcome of changing the borders of each region is a more equitable distribution of students and schools among the ESCs. Each district will contain fewer than 100,000 students and fewer than 150 schools.

“In the new configuration we will maintain a laser-like focus on struggling schools and innovative schools,” Cortines said, adding that he will “provide superintendents with the flexibility they need to allocate resources equitably.”

A district official familiar with the day-to-day operations of ESCs is dubious about Cortines’ timeline for the overhaul, calling it ambitious. The official, who asked not to be identified, warned that, like MISIS, it could lead to another rocky start of the year for administrators, students and parents.

“He has about three months to get it all in place and make sure things are running smoothly. How realistic is that?” the official asked.

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