Cortines to Leave L.A. Unified, and A Record of Fiscal Problems


As L.A. Unified School District chief Ramon Cortines announces he's on the way out, audits showing huge losses in textbook management arise--amid criticism of the expenses of the Cortines transition.

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Cortines departure, like his arrival, could be unnecessarily expensive, as the Daily News explains:

WHEN David Brewer III was on the outs - but had not yet been ousted - as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, he appointed Ramon Cortines as senior deputy superintendent. It was a bogus title, and everyone knew it....

The arrangement was a way for the district to have a competent leader while the Board of Education figured out a graceful exit for Brewer. Eight months later, in January 2009, the transition was formalized.

Months of paying two top administrators their six-figure salaries wasn't cheap. And it rankled teachers and taxpayers that the big spending was going on at a time when the economy was tanking and the district was facing enormous revenue losses....

In light of this, Cortines should know better than to employ that same not-quite-honest, double-leader format as his exit strategy....

John Deasy was hired as deputy superintendent. He will start Aug. 2. No one will say if Deasy is going to be Cortines' successor, but it seems highly likely considering that Deasy's annual salary is $275,000 - $25,000 more than Cortines' - and because Cortines has moved out of the superintendent's big office so Deasy can move in....

We don't want to see Cortines go, but since he is - and seems to have already selected his replacement - then he ought to be above board about his succession plan and not have an apprentice superintendent. The district cannot afford to pay two chiefs for the better part of a year.

While the Daily News praised Cortines reformers sense, a new audit that hits as Cortines is on his way out condemns L.A. USD's textbook management policies, saying the cost the district an unnecessary $10 million. From the L.A. Times account:

"The district does not manage or control the textbook inventory process effectively, efficiently or economically," auditors wrote in a June 30 report...

Misused resources stand out in a school system that in the past two years cut $1.5 billion from a general fund that will total $5.4 billion next year. The results have been pay cuts, a shorter school year, larger classes and thousands of layoffs -- and the postponement of $60 million in textbook purchases.

To manage a textbook inventory worth more than $256 million, L.A. Unified "relied on an outdated, substandard" system at secondary schools, auditors said. The elementary schools have no inventory system.

Larry Wilson at the Pasadena Star News thinks Cortines career and command of running good schools makes him a candidate for a comeback at age 88, ten years from now.

Previous City of Angles blogging on LA USD money problems.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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