LAUSD signs Superintendent Cortines to another school year

File photo: Interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines attends his first LAUSD school board after John Deasy stepped down.
File photo: Interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines attends his first LAUSD school board after John Deasy stepped down.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

The Los Angeles Unified school board extended the contract of interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines through the 2015-2016 school year. 

The surprise decision lengthens Cortines' third tenure as head of the nation's second largest school district. The board is expected to begin searching for his successor next year.

Cortines' contract details are still under review, the district said in a statement, but it added “nothing, including salary, is expected to change from the previous pact." Cortines negotiated a $300,000 annual salary when he was hired in October 2014. 

"I think [Cortines] is phenomenal," said board member Monica Ratliff after the school board unanimously approved the extension during a closed session meeting Tuesday. "He helped this district when we were in crisis," she said.

At 83 years old, Cortines came out of retirement last fall to serve on a temporary basis after Superintendent John Deasy resigned under board pressure following the iPad debacle and other disagreements with the board.

Last year, KPCC reported Deasy's close ties to executives at Apple and Pearson, the publisher of the tablets' learning software. The disclosure, along with mounting technical issues with the iPads and the district's student data system called MiSiS, contributed to Deasy's departure.

After Cortines stepped in, he canceled the iPad contract and, last month, demanded a partial refund that could amount to millions of dollars.

Cortines, who declined to comment for this story, also supervised efforts to repair the MISIS system and oversaw negotiations leading to a new teacher contract.

"I've never in my life witnessed a leader with more expertise, more passion, more commitment than Superintendent [Cortines] brings to this job every day," said board member Steve Zimmer.

But Cortines' efforts to cut spending haven't always been popular. In March, he asked the board to send out layoff notices to more than 600 teachers, counselors and other staff, though many of the positions are expected to be restored.

Cortines' proposal to cut nearly 14,000 early education seats infuriated preschool advocates who demanded the program not be trimmed but expanded as the district anticipates more state funding.

The interim superintendent was expected to step down once a new school board was elected and could begin the search for a long-term superintendent. Three of the seven members on the board face contested races in the general election on May 19.

This story has been updated.