Veteran educator Ramon Cortines will lead LA Unified School District

The L.A. Unified School District has a new superintendent. The district's board yesterday appointed veteran educator Ramon Cortines to a three-year contract one week after it voted to buy out Superintendent David Brewer's contract for about half a million dollars. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The decision to name a new superintendent took place the same way the decision to ask David Brewer to leave had unfolded, in closed session. School board president Monica Garcia led both efforts.

Monica Garcia: We are very excited that he has accepted the challenge to lead the second district in the country, the second largest school district in the country.

Guzman-Lopez: Board members took turns praising Cortines, who's headed school districts in Pasadena, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. Cortines was L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's top education advisor before he accepted Brewer's offer to become senior deputy superintendent. Cortines said he'd work hard to improve graduation rates and steer L.A. Unified through expected budget cuts.

Ramon Cortines: And so there will be change and change will be good for all of us, not easy, but I'm more concerned that what we have to do least affects the children and young people in our care.

Guzman-Lopez: Cortines, an ally of Villaraigosa's, replaces a superintendent the board had chosen without consulting the mayor as he fought to influence the school district two years ago.

School Board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte said she remains concerned that outgoing superintendent David Brewer didn't get a fair performance review. But she's pledging support for his replacement.

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte: We've lost enough time, we've taken enough time from the children with everything that's gone on. All of the maneuvering and politricks or whatever went on for the last couple of weeks, and we need to get down to business, our kids are suffering.

Guzman-Lopez: Board President Monica Garcia wouldn't say whether asking Brewer to leave was fair – or whether the board could have handled the process another way. She's looking ahead, she said, because the school district faces many financial and educational challenges.