Austin Beutner starts as new LAUSD superintendent

Elizabeth Cortez

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Austin Beutner, a former businessman with no previous involvement in education, on May 15 began his new position as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Businessman Austin Beutner began his first day as Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent on Tuesday.  In a 5/2 vote on May 1, the Board of Education approved a three-year contract with a base salary of $350,000.

While Beutner has most of the board in his favor, the opposing side worries his lack of experience working in education will not provide the district’s long overdue “voice.” Once the money problems fade, board member Scott Schmerelson is concerned Beutner isn’t ready to manage a school or care for the smaller details.

“When you are the head of a billion dollar company, I don’t know how much time you pay attention to small things like: student has a problem, teacher has a problem…,” said Schmerelson, who voted against Beutner. “How do you know how to deal with all these social issues if you know nothing about a school and you live kind of isolated away from the regular people, like us.”

Due to medical issues, former superintendent Michelle King abruptly went on leave in September, then announcing her retirement. Vivian Ekchian, local superintendent of the North West District, was appointed interim superintendent in January.

Beutner attended Dartmouth College where he majored in economics. Excelling as a businessman in acquisitions and mergers, Beutner has done many things such as becoming the first deputy mayor of Los Angeles in 2010, former publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times in August 2014 and was even a cofounder of Evercore Partners, an investment bank.

The Board of Education chose Beutner to lead the country’s second largest school district because of his overwhelming capability to make money, disregarding the fact that he has never worked in education. One of the major problems he is expected to solve is  LAUSD’s growing financial crisis. Due to declining enrollment, one of the biggest issues is having enough money to continue with the district and provide for not only kids but also the people involved in schools such as teachers or custodians.