Ortiz pursues excellence for every student

September 7, 2020
Throughout his decades-long career in education, from bilingual teacher to his current role as director of Special Education, Anthony Ortiz has proven time and again to be the embodiment of effective leadership. He is knowledgeable, patient, determined, diligent and committed to positive change, never ceasing in his pursuit of educational excellence for every student he serves. When Ontario-Montclair SD applied to become a single district SELPA in 2017, Ortiz was unanimously selected to direct the transition. He immediately worked to develop ongoing professional development opportunities for all special education teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals, and encouraged principals to take ownership of the special education programs at their schools. In just three years, Ontario-Montclair SD has developed one of the highest quality special education programs in San Bernardino County, serving more than 3,000 students in over 50 distinct programs that provide support in the least restrictive environment.  To assist in family engagement and education, he developed a Special Education Advisory Group, an Early Dispute Resolution Parent Group, and a Special Education Task Force, all designed to obtain multiple perspectives in the improvement of the Special Education programs. “I hold Dr. Ortiz in high regard,” wrote James Hammond, superintendent of Ontario-Montclair SD. “His work ethic, positive attitude, and perseverance highlight a remarkable level of professionalism and commitment to students, families and colleagues.” What’s your favorite book on leadership? One book I reference a lot, though not specifically on leadership, is “The Starbucks Experience” by Joseph Michelli. The book discusses how the most successful coffee café has based their success on five core principles. It is a business book, but the principles can apply to any organization.  What’s your favorite quote about leadership? “The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision.” — Ken Blanchard What are some of your favorite apps? Evernote — productivity for organizing notes and planning. Dropbox — cloud storage. Strava — track fitness activity. Slack — communication for organizations. Pocket — save news and articles to read later. What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? Finding balance starts with doing things you enjoy for your body and mind. Make time for family, friends and health. Work will always be there and get in the way, but the important things in life may not be. I focus on prioritizing the things that matter. At some point, I have to disconnect from work. What are the top five life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? 1. Focus on your values, beliefs, and heart when making decisions for others. 2. Always have a “plan B” in place. 3. Your decisions will set precedent for others, so before making a decision look at all angles and consider current/future consequences, good and bad, as much as you can. 4. You will never make everyone happy, accept it, and do what is best for students.  5. Ask for outcomes, not methods.  What made you want to become a school administrator? Two reasons: I always want to challenge myself. After teaching for eight years, I decided to get into administration. As a teacher, I impacted 30 students’ lives every year, but wanted to have more macro-level impact on students. The principalship allowed me to reach this goal. I was fortunate to work alongside leaders who inspired me to want to lead, serve others, and put students’ needs first when making decisions. I was motivated by the belief that students deserved to have a principal who truly cared about each of them and would always do what was in their best interest. What are you most proud of accomplishing? Region 12 Local ACSA Chapter SPED Admin of the Year award. State ACSA SPED Admin of the Year Award. Completing my doctorate in 2006 … first in my family. Collaborating with my elementary and middle school staffs to improve learning and social development outcomes for students. Who is someone who inspires you? My sons inspire me. They are what I live and work for, since they were born. The way I act, speak, and behave are informed by me trying to be a good role model for them, personally and professionally. What’s your pre-game ritual to get ready for a big meeting or presentation? First, I ensure I have prepared a well-structured presentation with limited wording and clear outcomes. I memorize key points from each slide to prevent reading slides.  Identify the key takeaways and talking points.  Leave time for questions. How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? I have learned a lot by attending leadership symposiums, academies (superintendent, master scheduling, curriculum and instruction), and Legislative Action Day. The information and presenters at events and academies are quality people with relevant experience and practical suggestions from the field. Legislative Action Day was an amazing experience! I would never had had the experience without ACSA. Serving as VP and president of my local ACSA chapter, AWESA, gave me hands-on experience in conducting ACSA business at a local level and enabled me to attend all the Leadership Assemblies, where we received updated ACSA news. Lastly, the networking at these events and the colleagues I met was invaluable. My experience with ACSA has been positive. What bucket list item do you hope to accomplish this year? I want to present at one of ACSA’s leadership conferences and write an article for the Leadership magazine. I am currently working on something now that I could use for both. What has the impact of the COVID-19 worldwide health crisis taught you? COVID-19 has been unprecedented in terms of its impact on people throughout the world. Although I would rather have avoided the virus, there are many lessons I took from it: Staying connected with others is vital. The virus made calling my parents and others I care about more important and necessary. I learned to do things I never would have … Zoom, cooking more at home, being more handy around the house, distance working, making mixed drinks (LOL!), etc. I learned we are more resilient than imagined. We can overcome anything, even social distancing and staying at home. I learned to sacrifice my immediate and personal needs and wants for the greater good, not just for my family, but the community and world at large.
ACSA Special Education Administrator of the Year Anthony Ortiz reads to students. He said his sons are his biggest inspiration.  
Name: Anthony Ortiz Award: Special Education Administrator of the Year  Title: Director of Special Education, Ontario-Montclair School District ACSA highlights: member since 2001; president of local chapter (current).
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