Friday, December 11, 2015

Ramon Cortines: His Work, His Legacy

I received an email this afternoon from a former colleague in Los Angeles. I had the pleasure of working with him during my 24 years with LAUSD.  His email surprised me because it contained a copy of the farewell letter Ramon Cortines had sent to the staff. And while I knew that Mr. Cortines was leaving the school district at the end of the semester, I didn't realize that today would be his last day.

I had the honor of working for Mr. Cortines during his three stints as interim superintendent, following the separation, resignation, etc., of a previous superintendent.  I will say that Mr. Cortines had a style of leadership that many found challenging to embrace.  At times he was brash and impatient. At other times he was warm and friendly, and easy to talk to. It wasn't' always easy to figure who he was going to be during an interaction.  

I had the pleasure of working for Mr. Cortines when I served as Principal and Director with LAUSD.  I, too, struggled at times to figure out how best to address him. And while I didn't see him all that often, eventually, I came to realize that it wasn't necessary to try and figure him out. It was more about my becoming clear that what mattered to him was serving student and community, and everything else was secondary, including the adult interactions.  Mr. Cortines truly believed in putting students first.

I recall an evening during my time as Director when he came to visit, Gratts Elementary School, now known as GLAYS.  I was working with the school team to write its Pilot school proposal.  We were working late into the evening when he showed up to see how we were doing.   We all thought he needed something, but in fact he came to ask the team how he could be of service to ensure that whatever the plan espoused, it be directed toward meeting the needs of the students in what was a highly impacted community. He shared that he understood the challenges faced by the teachers and staff in that school community, and wanted to reassure the team that he was there to make sure the plan did what it was designed to do. 

I believe that a large part of his legacy will be his commitment to children.  It is clear that in serving the way he did, he was striving to transform the live of young people, and their communities, for the better.  And he did so not only in Los Angeles and California, but across the country.  There are many individuals throughout the country, who were in a district he led that have grown up to be successful in life because of his commitment to them.  And while much will be joked about regarding his crankiness and impatience with people, even more will be said about the difference he has made to advance the institution of public education.

Nelson Mandela once said that, "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."  Mr. Cortines, I truly believe that you have led a significant life, and truly deserves our gratitude for having chosen education as both his vocation and his avocation.  I wish you well sir, as you move to the next phase of your life's journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment