Los Angeles Unified School District
austin beutner

Los Angeles superintendent announces retirement

April 22, 2021
Austin Beutner has led the nation's second largest district since 2018.

Austin Beutner has announced that he is leaving the Los Angeles Unified School District after three years as superintendent.

In a letter to the school board, Beutner cited numerous signs of progress that occurred under his tenure and called the job the most rewarding of his career, but said, "I respectfully request that my contract end as planned on June 30."

Beutner's announced departure from the nation's second-largest public school system come weeks after the top administrator in the nation's largest district--New York City--resigned. Richard Carranza stepped down in March as New York City schools chancellor--he also served only three years in the job.

Top administrators in the nation's largest public school districts historically have had difficulty achieving a long tenure in those jobs because of the bureaucractic, financial and political difficulties inherent in running such organizations.

Los Angeles Unified has had five people serve six different stints as superintendent in the 15 years.

Beutner did not have an education background when he was hired in 2018. He had been an investment banker, and also served as deputy mayor of Los Angeles and publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

Revolving door: Superintendents in the Los Angeles Unified District

  • 2018-2021: Austin Beutner
  • 2016-2018: Michelle King
  • 2014-2015: Ramon Cortines
  • 2011-2014: John Deasy
  • 2008-2011: Ramon Cortines
  • 2006-2008: David Brewer

The Los Angeles school board issued a statement thanking Beutner for his three-year stint as superintendent, especially "his unwavering leadership during the extraordinary challenges facing our school district during the Covid-19 pandemic." 

"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 statement continued. "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."

Among the changes that Beutner cited as his key accomplishments:

  • Organizational changes that "transformed Los Angeles Unified from a top-down, one-size-fits-all bureaucracy in 44 nimble local teams, each dedicated to the community it serves."
  • Cutting central office expenditures to generate $150 million that was reallocated directly to schools.
  • Led passage of a $7 billion construction bond proposal that will enable the district to maintain and improve its facilities.

He also cited the steps he and his administration have taken to address the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • Assembling a coalition of universities, technology companies, health insurers, and testing laboratories to advise on health and safety practices.
  • Providing regular Covid testing along with contact tracing to school staff, students and their families.
  • Putting in place health and safety practices at schools that exceed CDC guidelines.
  • Upgrading air-filtration systems in all classrooms and 80 million square feet of buildings.
  • Providing vaccinations for school staff.
  • Establishing 25 school-based vaccination sites for families in communities that lack access to health services.

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