L.A. School Board to Continue Debating Selection of New Superintendent

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education will again meet behind closed doors today as it tries to select a new superintendent amid a report that it favors former investment banker and Los Angeles Times Publisher Austin Beutner.

The board has held a series of closed-door discussions but has yet to reach a consensus on a candidate. However, the Los Angeles Times reported this morning that the board is poised to select the 58-year-old Beutner, a philanthropist and one-time deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa.

Andres Alonso, former Baltimore schools chief, announced on Twitter Friday that he had pulled his name from consideration.

``To those sending best wishes on the LAUSD superintendent job, I withdrew from the process on Monday, when a possibility emerged -- no guarantee -- in relation to the school system I first loved,'' Alonso wrote without elaborating. ``I am grateful to the LAUSD board for its consideration and wish the city the best.''

Another finalist for the position, Indianapolis schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, withdrew his name from consideration in late April.

Their withdrawals appeared to narrow the field of candidates to two. The Los Angeles Times reported that in addition to Alonso and Ferebee, the board was considering Beutner and current Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian and Austin Beutner.

The LAUSD has been without a firm superintendent since Michelle King went on medical leave in September. She announced in January that she had cancer and would not return to the job.

Barring a last-minute development, the only mystery about the Board of Education's choice is whether Beutner emerges with four or five votes from the panel's seven members, The Times reported. Terms of his contract already have been under discussion, sources close to the process told the newspaper.

The selection of Beutner, who has no experience managing a school or a school district, would be a signal that the board majority that took control nearly a year ago wants to rely on business management skills instead of insider educational expertise, according to The Times.

L.A. Unified has serious financial problems. The district faces rising pension costs, vastly underfunded retiree health benefits and union pressure to raise salaries -- all as declining enrollment is draining financial resources.

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 Times but was fired after a year over disagreements about the newspaper's direction.

Photo: Getty Images

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