In the News

Austin Beutner is named superintendent as board members choose strong leadership to tackle LAUSD's deep academic and fiscal challenges

May 2, 2018

The elected leaders of Los Angeles’s public schools sent a strong signal Tuesday that LA needs bold leadership, choosing Los Angeles businessman Austin Beutner as superintendent of schools.

Beutner is both an insider and an outsider. He has deep ties in Los Angeles and a demonstrated commitment to civic service. The former investment banker served as first deputy mayor of Los Angeles, then moved across the street from City Hall to the Los Angeles Times as publisher and CEO. He currently co-leads a task force on LA Unified but does not have an education background, yet he brings financial acumen, political savvy, and negotiation skills.

The choice shows that board members are ready to shake up the district, picking Beutner over Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian, who, like her predecessor Michelle King, has spent her career in the district as an educator and administrator. It also reflects an urgent need to improve LA’s public schools while staving off weakening finances that could put LA Unified under state control within two years.

Reflecting divisions on the board, the vote was 5-2, with Scott Schmerelson and George McKenna voting against Beutner.

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Los Angeles needs a superintendent who puts students first

Feb. 25, 2018

One of the most important decisions that any school board makes is choosing a superintendent, a process the LAUSD Board of Education is undertaking now. The board will examine this choice through many different lenses: experience, leadership style, personality, and a skillset matched to the most urgent challenges facing the second-largest district in the nation.

However, one lens that we believe the board should not use is whether a candidate is “pro” charter school or “pro” district school. Dividing candidates into “pro” or “con” regarding charter schools is simplistic, misleading, and ignores what everyone agrees should be the goal of any superintendent: providing students the best education possible.

When we debate which form of public school an educator may or may not favor, we are implicitly valuing what’s good for bureaucracy more than what’s good for students. Board member George McKenna said it best at a recent school board meeting debating this issue: “Our biggest split is on the issue of charter schools, that is the elephant. Is it the belief that our role as board members is to primarily protect and monitor this district, or are we elected to serve all students no matter where they are and it’s OK that they go to the charter schools?”

We couldn’t agree more.

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"Kickboxing and Kundalini: Part of a novel approach to reducing charter school teacher attrition

Feb. 1, 2018

Kickboxing, yoga, Zumba dance classes, healthy snacks and nursing pods for new mothers are all an integral part of an unusual approach adopted by a charter school network in Los Angeles to tackle the near-universal problem of stress and isolation that teachers cite as major reasons they leave the profession.

Since August 2017, Bright Star Schools, a network of charter schools in the central, south and San Fernando Valley sections of Los Angeles, has been offering programs and benefits designed to improve the health and work-life balance of their teachers. The programs were developed after Bright Star teachers cited the stresses of the job, its impact on their health and lack of time to spend with their families as major retention issues.

With a one-year $250,000 grant from Great Public Schools Now, a Los Angeles nonprofit that funds school-improvement initiatives, Bright Star is providing two family friendly benefits. It gives its 140 teachers two additional personal paid days off. In addition, it has installed a “nursing pod” — an oval-shaped structure with a door — in each school for teachers with infants, providing them a private space to pump and store their breast milk while on the job.

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