The Los Angeles school district has chosen a former investment banker, deputy mayor, and philanthropist with no experience leading a school district, to run the country’s second-largest school system.
Austin Beutner, who founded the non-profit Vision to Learn, which provides free eye screenings and eyeglasses to low-income students, was selected by a 5-2 vote on Tuesday.
He will replace Michelle King, the longtime LAUSD educator who left on medical leave last year and announced in January that she had cancer and would not return as superintendent.
The selection of a non-educator to run the complex district appears to be another indication that the school board—which has a pro-charter majority—is moving in a new direction. The LA Times notes that charter school growth would likely be encouraged to increase options for students.
Beutner will be tasked with confronting the district’s budget deficit and boosting student academic performance, according to the Los Angeles Times. His base salary will be $350,000 annually.
“Our collective effort must be to embrace the system changes necessary for greater access, equity, and excellence for each child, in every classroom, in every school,” School board President Monica Garcia said in a statement. “This will require great financial and political efforts to enroll inside and outside stakeholders in the vision of 100 percent graduation where all students are ready for college, career, and life. This is our time to set the path for the next 50 years. We welcome all to help us model unity for our children. We have made progress and there is more to do to see all children reach their potential.”
The other finalist for the job was Vivian Ekchian, who is serving as the district’s interim superintendent.
The four finalists for the high-profile job included two big names in district leadership: Lewis Ferebee, the superintendent in Indianapolis, and Andres Alonso, the former superintendent in Baltimore, Md., who is now a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
But both men withdrew, leaving Beutner and Ekchain as the final two candidates.
While Beutner does not have experience leading a school system, he has a diverse resume: investment banker, former state department official, former deputy mayor in Los Angeles, and former publisher of the Los Angeles Times.
He also has a working relationship with the district. Vision to Learn has provided thousands of Los Angeles’ students with free glasses, and Beutner has worked with the district to review its operations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Photo caption: Austin Beutner, founder of the Vision To Learn program, arrives at Jefferson Elementary School in Sacramento, Calif., in 2013.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.