L.A. school board to take first look at candidates for superintendent

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines conducts a meeting in his office on Oct. 20, 2014.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines conducts a meeting in his office on Oct. 20, 2014.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday is expected to move from the theoretical to the nitty-gritty in its search for the next leader of the nation’s second-largest school system.

After a brief session in public, the seven-member board plans to go behind closed doors to review questions for superintendent candidates, discuss its overall approach to interviews and take a first look at a binder of possible choices assembled by the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates.

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Interviews are expected to begin on Sunday in an all-day private meeting, said sources close to the process who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

The mission is to find a replacement for Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, 83, who hopes to retire by the end of 2015. He appears to mean it, talking about next week’s school board meeting as the last in which he will play a leading role.

Cortines has headed the L.A. Unified School District three times, returning most recently after Supt. John Deasy resigned under pressure in October 2014.

The next schools chief will oversee the education of 650,000 students: most from low-income families; most of whom also fall short of state academic standards. There’s also a looming budget deficit and the challenge of an outside, privately funded plan to expand rapidly the number of students enrolled in charter schools.

Charters, which are publicly funded, are independently managed and exempt from some rules that govern traditional schools.

The board’s closed-door proceedings on Tuesday and Sunday are expected to last hours, possibly all day, and no announcements are anticipated at the conclusion of either gathering.


The candidate screening and interviews follow two months of build-up that often resembled pageantry. First, a team of consultants, through a survey and more than 100 meetings, gathered input from the general public and specific segments of the community, including teachers, clergy, parents and civic leaders.

Then, the consultants unveiled a leadership profile compiled from this input and the board debated it. Board members acknowledged during a November meeting that they have significant disagreements over the future direction of L.A. Unified.

“We have real tensions,” board member Monica Garcia said about how to help the under-served youth of Los Angeles. “We need to find that common ground where at least four board members can agree to trust a person.”

So far, there appear to be no front-runners for the job. Even when they emerge, the board members intend to keep the process confidential until a choice is made.

Twitter: @howardblume



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