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School Superintendent Ramon Cortines

April has been designated National Humor Month. While laughter is said to be therapeutic and an opportunity to make life’s burdens a little easer to bear, there’s also the chance to learn a few good lessons from the occasion that brought about the hee-haws.

The Problem/ The Set-Up

My son Paul said the principal of his junior high school pulled him out of the lineup for school pictures.

“I wasn’t wearing a shirt and tie,” he said with a smattering of shame and went on to explain that the principal sent him and another boy who was also dressed inappropriately to the office, and the secretary presented them with a box of dingy-looking clothing items to choose from that neither of the boys wanted to put on.

I scrambled through the papers on my desk to find the announcement for Class Picture Day.

It was there and to my satisfaction there was nothing on the announcement that said a shirt and tie were required.

Be patient – the chuckle is coming.

I went to see the principal; he wasn’t budging. No shirt. No tie. No Picture.

I went to see the school district assistant superintendent. He fiddled around with stuff on his desk, avoided making eye contact with me and, in the end, said there was nothing to be done as the principal made policy at the school.

I went to see the superintendent. He said nothing to me after hearing the story but called his secretary and told her to get the principal on the telephone.

I sat there at his desk watching, waiting and listening.

The Solution/The Last laugh

Once the principal was on the line, the superintendent picked up his telephone and said, “This is Ray, your friendly photographer at school district headquarters. Get a photographer to that school immediately and take every 7th-grader’s picture.”

He hung up the phone, looked at me, smiled and asked if there was anything else he could do.

Unfortunately, the principal got the last laugh. He brought the photographer back to the school, but made sure to have the class picture taken right after lunch time when the kids were sweaty and in disarray from playing on the field.

Where’s the Laugh?

Raising kids provides many stories with a set-up and a punch line, but often it’s hard to determine where’s the laugh.

“Ha, ha,” I chuckled to myself as I left the school district headquarters having met a man, the superintendent, who took my small issue seriously but at the same time could add a little humor by referring to himself as the “friendly photographer.”

Concealed in humor is most often serious reality. “Crackin’ but Fackin” was an expression that was once used to define this scenario.

More to Humor than a Laugh

The principal may have had the “one-up” last laugh with the after-lunch photograph. But, on the Fackin side, the Superintendent set in motion the creation of a militant education advocate – me.

Ramon Cortines, who was the Superintendent of Pasadena Schools who I met with, later became superintendent of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles School Districts.

It’s no joke. Ramon Cortines believes in parent power. Talk about making a parent’s life burdens easier to bear, follow his advice when it comes to advocating for your kids’ education.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jean C. Troy

    I too had a run in with Mr. Cortines, regarding the principle at PHS. they wanted to put my youngest son in Foothill continuation High School. Not over a violent act but over His passive aggressive behavior. when I protested the action the then principle told me I had no recourse. Like You Shirley I went to the superintendent, and my son was allowed back into to PHS. Mr Cortines did practice what He said on the video and allowed me as a Parent and a citizen to have my say and He listened.

  2. Bill

    Dear Shirlee,

    Ramon Cortines was always a “bully” / and an intimidating LAUSD Superintendent toward (hard working) and (activists) teachers. His insouciant demeanor also caused a “combative and terse” atmosphere in working in the district.
    I was glad that you observed that the “Class Picture Day” school flyer (from your son’s principal)—-did NOT mention a shirt and tie. Hence, you were in your right to proceeded to the upper echelon of those in command. For the “principal” to have the children’s pictures taken AFTER lunch/playground time…was “childish” to be sure. A cream pie in the face of the aforementioned “leaders” would have definitely brought gales of laughter to me; in helping to celebrate April’s National Humor Month (Big Smile). But ANY month would have been suitable for “the special pie ‘delivery'” in this case. Why wait until April? A pie in the face is funny…anytime of the year (Bigger Smile); especially when the pie is “decorating” certain particular faces indeed.
    —–Bill

    1. Shirlee Smith

      I’ve had a “zillion” off the record comments re: Ray Cortines in saying exactly what you have said about him being a bully! I applaud you for putting into print what so many people don’t want to say in a public forum. I say about Ray Cortines, as I say about others that I know and people question my good words, I speak from what I know and NOT from what I hear. I don’t doubt what I hear – using what I hear would be reporting hearsay. Again, thank you for breaking LIGHT and perhaps other people will open up

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