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L.A. Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner Stepping Down


Austin Beutner, who took the helm of the Los Angeles public school system, the second-largest in the nation, during a leadership crisis and shepherded it through the coronavirus pandemic, says he will leave his post as superintendent at the end of June.

“This job is extraordinarily demanding, even in ordinary times,” Mr. Beutner, 61, said in an interview, adding, “It’s been a long three years.”

Los Angeles school trustees had asked him to extend the three-year contract he signed in 2018. But Mr. Beutner, a former financier who has served as a publisher of The Los Angeles Times and a deputy mayor, wrote in a letter to the board on Wednesday that he preferred to move on.

Across the country, pandemic-fatigued civic leaders are reassessing their service.

Nearly one-fifth of the mayors in Massachusetts have said they will not run for re-election. In San Francisco, where political controversies over school names consumed the school board while families clamored for a return to face-to-face classes, the superintendent decided to stay on only after the board agreed in writing not to adopt any new mandates unrelated to reopening, for the time being.

Mr. Beutner’s tenure in Los Angeles has been filled with crises.

A few months after he arrived, teachers who were seeking to curb the influence of charter schools announced their first strike in three decades. The strike was settled after six days. Then in 2020 came the pandemic, emptying classrooms of the roughly 650,000 students the district serves, most of them from low-income households.

Operating under emergency powers and leveraging his contacts in the philanthropic and private sectors, Mr. Beutner was both praised and criticized for his handling of the pandemic.

The district set up an extraordinary social-service net, providing more than 123 million meals to needy children and adults, more than 30 million masks and other items, as well as mass Covid-19 testing and vaccination.

But California was among the last states to resume in-person instruction, in part because Mr. Beutner had agreed with the district’s teachers to make reopening conditional on access to vaccination.

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