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Surprise tribute to Cortines interrupts school board session

Mike Szymanski | December 1, 2015

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Curtiss Middle School performs for Ray Cortines.

Outgoing LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines got a series of big surprises this afternoon with a long-planned tribute that included a group of students singing for him and old friends stopping by district headquarters to honor his legacy.

The school board auditorium was packed for the event, which Cortines knew nothing about. The seven school board members sat in the front row, interrupting a closed meeting in which they were discussing who is going to replace him.

The event was not publicized, and apart from the invitees, it might have only been discovered by someone inadvertently stumbling onto the district’s live-stream feed at 1:30. In thanking people, Cortines choked up.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 1.34.54 PMSteven McCarthy, the district’s K-12 arts coordinator, introduced about 40 singers from Curtiss Middle School, who were directed by Wendy Walsh, their new music teacher.

Jackie Padilla, an 8th grader from the school, thanked Cortines for bringing music back to her school and others, adding, “I am more confident and I am more courageous, and I have something to look forward each and every day at school.”

A pre-school class from San Pascual Elementary performed, as did members of the Carlos Santana Arts Academy and the school named for the superintendent, the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 2.19.53 PMFormer school board member, now Los Angeles City Council member Nury Martinez presented a dedication from the city, and a video tribute from students, teachers, former colleagues and national figures was played for the crowd.

Cortines grew emotional in his remarks as he talked about how the school board and all his staff worked to improve the district. (The video is available online at the LAUSD Daily.)

Cortines recalled his dream of becoming a teacher and said, “This may have been a difficult year, but we fixed so many things and we have miles to go, miles to go.”

It’s not the superintendent’s last day, but only the beginning of what promises to be a lengthy period of tributes and celebrations. He has said that next board meeting Dec. 8 will be his last in his official capacity.


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