LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Investment banker and former Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner was hired today as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, despite concerns about his lack of experience in the education field.
Beutner, 58, was chosen on a 5-2 vote, with board members George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson objecting. The board approved a contract that provides Beutner with a base salary of $350,000 a year. Before the board held its final closed-session meeting on the superintendent search Tuesday, a series of parents spoke to the panel in support of Vivian Ekchian, who has been serving as interim superintendent following the departure of Michelle King, who went on medical leave in September and announced in January she had cancer and would not be returning to work.
A representative for United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents district teachers, spoke out against the choice of Beutner and accusing the board of conducting ``the least transparent, most fast-tracked superintendent selection in the history of the LAUSD.''
Other speakers blasted the choice of Beutner, who has no experience managing a school or a school district, as a move engineered by a majority block of board members who support an expansion of privately run charter schools within the district. Beutner and Ekchian were the final two candidates standing in a competition that was initially narrowed to four people. The other two applicants -- former Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso and Indianapolis schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee -- both withdrew their names from consideration.
In 2010, Beutner became first deputy mayor of Los Angeles under Antonio Villaraigosa, overseeing business and job development. He was part of the Villaraigosa administration for about a year, also filling in as interim director of the Department of Water and Power. He ran for mayor in 2012 when Villaraigosa termed out, but his campaign never caught on and he dropped out early.
In 2014, Beutner co-chaired the 2020 Commission, which made recommendations for the future of Los Angeles. He then became publisher and chief executive of the Los Angeles Times but was fired after a year over disagreements about the newspaper's direction. He more recently served on the LA Unified Advisory Task Force created under King to help meet goals in the district's strategic plan and ``to foster a culture of change in which we identify opportunities and embrace solutions to close the achievement gap.''
LAUSD board president Monica Garcia urged ``every stakeholder inside and outside of our district to join the new superintendent and this board in fulfilling our mission to serve every child in every classroom in every school well on their way to graduation.''