LAUSD’S outgoing superintendent offers to ‘be around’ to help with transition

LAUSD’S outgoing superintendent offers to ‘be around’ to help with transition

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner holds a press conference at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 after welcoming back students. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner holds a press conference at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 after welcoming back students. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner holds a press conference at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 after welcoming back students. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner holds a press conference at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 after welcoming back students. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner leaves Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 after welcoming back students. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner shows his Daily Pass at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 before entering the school. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Principal Gloria Buenrostro greets LAUSD School Board member Jackie Goldberg to Willow Elementary School in South Gate as Sup. Austin Beutner tours the school to welcome back students on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner has his temperature checked at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 before entering the school. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD School Board member Jackie Goldberg and Sup. Austin Beutner talk at Willow Elementary School in South Gate after he welcomed back students on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • While welcoming back students, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner walks through Willow Elementary School in South Gate with Principal Gloria Buenrostro on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner welcomes students back to Margarita Vazquez’ 4th and 5th grade Spanish Dual Language combo class at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Marlene Ramos, right, and LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, center, do a welcome back cheer with her fifth graders and other officials at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner welcomes students back to Margarita Vazquez’ 4th and 5th grade Spanish Dual Language combo class at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner welcomes students back to Margarita Vazquez’ 4th and 5th grade Spanish Dual Language combo class at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner holds a press conference at Willow Elementary School in South Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021 after welcoming back students. Beutner said this week he will not renew his contract when it ends in June. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Before he was superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Austin Beutner was publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Before he got into the media business, he served as first deputy mayor of the city of Los Angeles. And before he got into public service, Beutner made his fortunes as an investment banker.

With such a varied career path, Beutner said in an interview this week that heading up the nation’s second-largest K-12 system has been one of the most challenging jobs he’s held — but also “the most rewarding.”

Yet after three years on the job — which included 15-hour work days, seven days a week to deal with unprecedented school closures in the face of a global health crisis — Beutner, who celebrated his 61st birthday this month, is tired.

“It can’t be all that my life is about,” he said of his job, adding that he has to balance work with being “a son, a husband, a father.”

On Thursday, April 22, one day after informing the school board that he won’t return when his contract is up at the end of June, Beutner reiterated to reporters during a visit to a South Gate campus that with the foundation laid for schools to reopen, he believes now is the time to hand over the baton.

“I’ve told the board I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I want to make sure there’s a seamless transition. I’ll be around to help advise whoever my successor is.”

Like many large, urban districts, LAUSD has struggled with leadership stability over the years. Since 2010, the district has had six superintendents, two of whom were interims.

Whoever takes over will oversee the eventual transition from a hybrid model of learning to, presumably, full-time learning in person again, while helping many of the more than half-million students enrolled in LAUSD to recover from learning losses and the trauma they’ve endured throughout the pandemic.

Beutner said this week the pool of talent already existing within LAUSD is the deepest the district has seen in a long time and that he believes the board could name a current employee as the next superintendent, though he said he had no particular individual in mind.

“The way to keep making progress in this critical juncture is (tapping) someone who’s been part of the team,” he said.

His advice for whomever succeeds  him is to “keep doing what we’re doing, and do it faster.”

The district has piloted a program called Primary Promise to build reading, math and critical thinking skills among elementary school students. Early results have been encouraging, and Beutner said he’d like the district to continue building on that, as well as the path to recovery.

“My wish for my successor is to continue down this path to accelerate the pace of progress, and my request to the community is to stay with us and make sure that … every school in Los Angeles Unified has the help it needs,” he said.

With the next school year just several months away, it’s unclear if school board members will name an interim superintendent to buy them time as they look for a permanent hire. The board, which pledged Wednesday to conduct a “robust and equitable search” for a new schools chief, has called a special meeting for Friday to discuss the superintendent’s position in closed session.

As for what’s next for the outgoing superintendent, Beutner said that beyond some much-needed rest initially, don’t expect him to sit idly by.

Beutner, who had studied economics at Dartmouth University, became the youngest-ever partner at the investment firm The Blackstone Group, at age 29, before founding Evercore Partners, a leading independent global investment bank.

In the mid-1990s, he served as an advisor under the Clinton administration, leading a team in Russia that focused on helping that nation switch over to a market economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

His work in public service continued in 2010 when the multimillionaire was hired by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as L.A.’s first deputy mayor for business development, at a salary of $1 per year.

A year later, he left his day job to run for mayor but ended that campaign in 2012, citing family concerns.

That same year, he founded Vision To Learn, a nonprofit that provides free eye exams and glasses to low-income children. It started in L.A. before expanding to more than a dozen states.

This week, Beutner admitted he’s not sure what’s in store for him, but he would not rule out the possibility of running for a political office again.

Whatever comes next, though, he said he’s not ready to retire.

“I have worked for quite a number of years now to make Los Angeles a better place,” he said.

“I think I have another chapter (to write).”

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