Austin Beutner is the kind of bold leader we need for Superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Several factors should be considered when searching for a CEO of the second largest school district in the nation. The first and most obvious should be whether the individual is qualified to oversee the district and lead the district in a direction that is both bold and ignited by a sense of urgency.
There has not been enough emphasis on what parents, students, and educational advocates would consider to be just as important, if not more so, the person heading up the district must love children. We have seen in so many cases in so many districts how easy is it to make this highly political appointment NOT about the most important people being served, the students. Let’s be clear that while we appreciate the hard work and move up the chain of command that educators like Michelle King and Vivian Echian have endured to get to where they are, there is a case to be made that the road map to high level administration does not necessarily a CEO make. Additionally, such a trajectory often comes at the expense of leaving students behind in an effort to win the respect and loyalty of the adults. Seniority in a bureaucratic system does not often lead to the kind of audacious leader our children desperately need now more than ever. We’ve seen time and again that the “insiders” owe too many favors and tend to be too careful to not ruffle feathers. Los Angeles’ school district needs someone who is not beholden to the adults, but instead is beholden to the children.
It’s time for the LAUSD Board to make a bold appointment. Austin Beutner has shown that he is highly committed to seeing the children of LAUSD succeed. The remarkable work that he’s done with Vision to Learn, a non-profit that he founded, is certainly a testament to his commitment to help children in underserved communities be successful by providing free eyeglasses. There has been a direct correlation with providing eye glasses to children in need with increased math scores. Something so simple is having a profound impact in children’s everyday lives, in their ability to succeed, in their self-confidence.
As a successful CEO, Austin is qualified to oversee the enormous ball of yarn that is LAUSD. By not being directly involved in the minutia of years of cronyism, favoritism, and insider issues, he is uniquely positioned to be someone who will need to come in and “clean house” to move the district forward, especially as the school district is facing bankruptcy. He is highly regarded by those of us who have worked with him and have seen him solve complex problems and find common sense solutions. We believe that Austin would lead with asking the right questions, building the right team, making the right adjustments based on his commitment to children and getting things done.
Austin has been a consistent advocate and champion for Latino children. He’s not a braggart, but he shows up during controversy. An example of this is when he fought for the undocumented parents of LAUSD children by joining the California civic leaders amicus brief in the Supreme Court in favor of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parental Arrivals policy. This policy would have been like DACA for parents, but it was rescinded by the Trump administration last year.
There will be a vote very soon, and this is an opportunity for the district try a new approach to LAUSD leadership and give Austin Beutner a chance to lead, a chance to bring the right coalition together and an opportunity to give children of Los Angeles a fighting chance to compete.
Alma V. Marquez
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