The search for a new headmaster in LA is coming to an end

Before the end of the year, Los Angeles school board members plan to announce the most momentous decision of their term in office – the appointment of a new headmaster.

The post, considered one of the toughest in public education, is being filled at a critical juncture for the country’s second largest school district. The system is filled with billions of dollars in coronavirus relief aid, additional federal funding, and soaring state tax revenues. But there is mountainous work ahead of us. Students are in crisis – they are struggling to recover from deep learning setbacks related to a pandemic, as well as mental health problems caused by prolonged isolation and other hardships. The district is also plagued by falling enrollments and a long-term structural budget deficit.

“The past 21 months have been devastating for so many families we serve in LA Unified,” said school board president Kelly Gonez. “The pandemic has brought with it an unequal burden of illness, death, job loss and trauma, which has increased disproportionately to color communities. Our superintendent must anticipate the profound effects of the pandemic, the racial justice riot and the urgent needs of our students and families. “

Officials – who conduct interviews in the final stages of their national research – would not confirm who applied. But Gonez said the new leader should “be a seasoned educator, uniting the broader Los Angeles community, committed to long terms, centered on the voices and needs of the historically most underserved, the talent within ours Can build a system and implement it on a large scale “. to ensure that we achieve the long-term goals for our students. “

A pool of potential candidates has been created based on interviews with education sources and recruitment across the country.

The candidates currently employed in the school system are believed to be interim supervisors. Megan Reilly, Chief Academic Officer Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, and Regional Administrator Frances Baez. Someone who straddles the line between insider and outsider is Joan Sullivan, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which manages 19 schools on behalf of the district.

Clipboard Megan Reilly took over the management of LA Unified this year after Austin Beutner left.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

These four candidates have become an open secret, despite efforts by the Education Committee to protect all applicants from disclosure. External competitors are more difficult to identify and could come from areas other than education.

However, some individuals would show up as potential candidates any time they search LA based on their experience and their alignment with the goals of the board, the 4-3 majority of which are united by a desire for aggressive change.

In a school system that consists of 90% colored students – including 74% Latinos and 8% black students – it appears that the candidates are also predominantly colored. Sources told the Times that the first scheduled interviews with eight or nine applicants did not include white men. There were no black candidates either, although it was early in the process and the situation could change.

Baez is the only Latina among the likely group with current county connections; A strong Latino representation was expected from the outgroup.

Miami-Dade County Schools Supt are among the candidates who might be part of the discussion when looking for the top leadership job in a large district like New York City, LA, Chicago or San Diego that is also looking for a superintendent. Alberto Carvalho.

Carvalho, who is of Portuguese descent and immigrated to the US at 17, had to learn English, accepted the job of New York superintendent in 2018 but quickly changed his mind and decided to stay in Miami.

Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho in a zebra crossing with children

Miami-Dade County Schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho accepted the job of New York Superintendent in 2018 but quickly changed his mind.

(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Another is Richard Carranza, who got the job in New York City when Carvalho resigned. He resigned in March. Carranza interviewed for the job in LA in 2015 before retiring. Another name on a multi-year shortlist would be longtime Dallas Supt. Mike Hinojosa, who resisted attempts by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to ban school face-covering requirements.

Others on the external list might include former Baltimore City Headmaster Andrés Alonso, who was shortlisted by LA in 2018 before retiring from the exam; Sacramento City Unified School District Supt. Jorge Aguilar; Jose Banda, a former superintendent in Anaheim, Seattle, and Sacramento; longtime Chula Vista Supt. Francisco Escobedo; Portland, Ore., Spt. Guadalupe-Guerrero; and Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Angélica Infante-Green.

Closer home, LA County Office of Education Supt. Debra Duardo – a former senior administrator of LA Unified – would likely get a serious look, but she said she didn’t apply.

“I look forward to working closely with the next LAUSD superintendent,” said Duardo.

Another insider outsider who didn’t apply is Glendale Unified Supt. Vivian Ekchian, who held senior positions at LA Unified, including interim superintendent prior to the selection of Austin Beutner, LA’s youngest headmaster.

More than 90% of parents, community members and staff in a recent district survey said they would like the next school principal to have “experience working in public schools as a teacher and / or administrator”. To an almost equal extent, those who responded also challenged someone with experience “working in and with large, diverse communities” and “managing a very large, changing organization”.

The school board could look for a different type of manager than it did in 2018, when the members decided in a closed session with 4-3 votes for Beutner, a businessman with no experience in education management. He led the school system through a teachers strike and the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic before stepping down in late June.

Austin Beutner speaks at a press conference

Former LA Schools Supt. Austin Beutner who resigned in late June.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Beutner’s candidacy and tenure as superintendent were supported by his deep connections within the LA philanthropic community. Someone like that would be Miguel Santana, director of the Weingart Foundation, who was previously executive director of the county’s Fairplex complex and city government official for Los Angeles. He said he wasn’t interested but had thoughts about what LA Unified should be looking for.

“The district has to go through a period of stability,” said Santana. “It takes a person who can get going on the first day and has the credibility of the entire community.”

The district could also elect an outsider known for political ability – for a job that is very political – as the school board did in 2000 with the election of three-time Colorado governor Roy Romer. Romer pooled this political acumen for six years and went on his own terms. Nobody has lasted for four years since then. Romer has described the position as the toughest job he’s ever had.

A potential candidate with tremendous political ability – if interested – would be former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rolled up his sleeve for a shot

Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be given a COVID-19 vaccine in January to promote vaccination. He has long been interested in reform measures at LA Unified.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Villaraigosa had a keen interest in education – as mayor, he tried to gain authority over LA Unified but lost in court, and he once blew United Teachers Los Angeles as “the only steadfast roadblock” to improving local public education.

The former mayor, who is traveling outside the country, was not immediately available for comment.

Those who currently have connections with LA Unified each bring relevant skills and backgrounds with them.

Reilly, the interim superintendent, has management experience both outside and inside education and has a solid understanding of the district’s financial structure. But she was never a teacher or principal in a public school, which opened the door to other in-house applicants.

Yoshimoto-Towery is the person with the most leadership experience in academic affairs and has developed the learning initiatives that are now underway. Baez has been in the district for more than 25 years, rising from teacher to administrator – most recently becoming superintendent of Local District Central, one of six regional branches of LA Unified. Sullivan is well known in the philanthropic community and has experience trying to turn around some of the district schools where students have struggled the most.

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