The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted to appoint a wealthy investment banker, Austin Beutner, as its superintendent by a vote of 4-3. The deciding vote was cast by Ref Rodriguez, a charter founder who is waiting to stand trial on multiple felony indictments  related to campaign finance. The initial vote was kept secret for more than a week. Then another vote to taken to offer a contract to Mr. Beutner, and that was approved 5-2.

After many years as an investment banker, Beutner served briefly as deputy mayor of Los Angeles and served briefly as publisher of the Los Angeles Times.  He has a close association with Eli Broad, the octogenarian billionaire who has declared his hope to put half the students in the nation’s second largest school district into privately managed charter schools.

The two career educators on the board were the dissenters. Scott Schmerelson released a statement decrying Beutner’s lack of any education experience.

George McKenna issued this statement today.

For Immediate Release May 2, 2018
Contact: Patrice Marshall McKenzie (213) 259-9763


As an experienced lifelong public-school educator, I feel compelled to voice my dissent regarding the selection of a non-educator to lead the second-largest school district in the nation.

In an abbreviated and rushed process without open community forums or input from school and District staff, parents and students, a majority of the Board of Education selected the new superintendent with a 5 to 2 vote. This choice of a person with no experience as an educator in K-12 school districts reflects the lack of concern for the continuity and stability of the District.

The premise that a non-educator is a better fit to lead a large educational organization because of limited managerial experience in outside business experiences is fundamentally flawed and politically motivated. To intentionally seek non-educators to serve as superintendents reflects a lack of respect for the professional educators who have demonstrated effective service and leadership within school systems, along with a denial of the Board’s ultimate responsibility to establish policies that govern the District and hold the Superintendent accountable.

The primary purpose of a school district is to establish and adequately resource effective schools, which are ultimately dependent on teachers, administrators and other school site staff. The dream of business-style governance being used in an urban school district to turnaround failing schools and/or lessen the achievement gap is a myth that has not materialized. This continued experiment on the neediest students and families is an injustice and an avoidance of the reality that our communities need the best educational leadership that be found.

Despite the enthusiasm by some for “outside” and “non-traditional” leadership for school districts, the reality is that this strategy never results in the reversal of underachievement in our neediest schools and communities. It is hard to believe that a governing board of a multi-billion dollar company would hire an inexperienced novice to lead their company in time of greatest need. This decision was predetermined by outside influences with a profit and political motive that will continue to expand without providing adequate resources to our neediest schools.

Although this decision was predictable and disappointing, I encourage our great team of employees and parents to continue communicating their needs and concerns to the superintendent, to me and the other Board Members.
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