LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Austin Beutner will step down when his contract expires June 30, he announced in a letter to the district’s Board of Education, saying the role is “the most rewarding job I’ve held during my nearly 40-year career.”
In the letter, Beutner asked the board to allow his contract to expire “as planned,” saying that a “new superintendent should have the privilege of welcoming students back to school in the fall.”
The board later announced that Deputy Superintendent Megan Reilly will serve as the interim district superintendent starting July 1.
Beutner has been LAUSD’s superintendent since May 2018.
“I will remain focused on the task of ensuring that schools reopen in the safest way possible while helping in a seamless leadership transition,” he wrote. “I believe the next superintendent of Los Angeles Unified can be found amongst the current team….The leadership ranks of Los Angeles Unified have never been stronger and I know you share my gratitude for the commitment of the women and men who answer the call to serve in public education.”
Beutner’s departure caps the most tumultuous year in the district’s history, with all campuses forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all classes turning on a dime from in-person to online. Beutner also shepherded the district through a teachers’ strike in 2019.
“The past three years have presented LA Unified with unprecedented challenges,” he wrote. “I’m proud to say we’ve risen to the occasion and grateful to have worked alongside so many who are deeply committed to helping children. It has been my privilege to contribute to work that reinforces one of the greatest achievements in human history: a free public education for every child. Education creates a path out of poverty for many of the children we serve and the promise of greater opportunity for all students.
“Education is fundamentally about what’s next. And I am optimistic about what’s next for students and their schools in Los Angeles Unified. All of us have a duty to contribute what we can in the time we have — to ensure that those who follow have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.”
The Board of Education has had multiple closed-door discussions regarding Beutner’s employment in recent weeks, given the pending expiration of his contract. The board members issued a joint statement thanking him for “his dedicated service to the students and families of LA Unified,” particularly during the pandemic.
“The superintendent will continue to work diligently to support our students and schools through the planned end of his term on June 30,” according to the board. “While we are disappointed that he will not continue to serve as superintendent past that date, we sincerely wish him and his family all the best. The board remains committed to providing a high-quality public education to every child in Los Angeles and, as part of that work, will embark on a robust and equitable search process to find our next leader.”
Beutner, 61, has been a lightning rod for criticism since he was hired. A businessman and investment banker by trade, he had no experience in the educational field when he took the job. His hiring was lambasted by the United Teachers Los Angeles union, which said he had a history of making money by consolidating businesses and laying off workers.
Even some LAUSD board members objected, including Scott Schmerelson, who said Beutner “has never taught in a public school, never managed a public school, has no instructional background and has never worked for a school district of any size.”
And yet, Beutner, who served as a Los Angeles deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa, was hired anyway, with proponents saying he had the business acumen needed to lead a district facing financial woes and severe underfunding.
Although he continued to butt heads with the teachers’ union during his tenure, Beutner has earned generally high marks for his leadership during the pandemic and efforts to upgrade safety measures at campuses to prepare for a return of students. The district continued to feed students and their families during the campus closures, doling out more than 123 million meals through pickup locations at schools.