Board Names Next Long Beach Schools Chief
The Long Beach Unified School District on Tuesday elevated Christopher Steinhauser, its second in command, to become the next superintendent of the 97,000-student system.
Steinhauser, 43, will replace Carl Cohn, who served as superintendent for 10 years and earned national recognition for leading improvements in the district, which is the third largest in the state, after Los Angeles and San Diego.
Cohn, 56, will retire in August and become a professor at the USC Rossier School of Education, where he will train future school superintendents.
“I want to build upon the strengths that our present superintendent and board have already established,” Steinhauser said Tuesday. “We’re a leader in school reform.”
Steinhauser began his career as a teacher in Long Beach and moved up through the ranks as a vice principal, principal, director of special projects for the central office, and as an area superintendent. In 1999 he was named deputy superintendent.
He will inherit an ethnically diverse student population that is 45% Latino, 20% black, 18% white and 12% Asian.
Although test scores have gone up significantly in the last three years, Steinhauser faces challenges similar to those Cohn encountered in 1992: budget cuts, overcrowding and continuing pressures to improve academic performance.
Steinhauser, who has two children in district schools, said he will focus on helping students pass the new California high school exit exam, as well as on building and modernizing schools with money from a $290-million local bond issue that passed in 1999.
The most pressing challenge will be getting through tough fiscal times, he said.
The district has slowed spending, reduced central offices and frozen the hiring of classified employees, he said.
Referring to similar budget cuts 10 years ago, Steinhauser said Tuesday: “We survived that storm, and we’ll survive this one.”
Steinhauser earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Long Beach.
He started his career in 1982, teaching third and fifth grades at Roosevelt Elementary in Long Beach. He later became vice principal of Burnett Elementary, then principal of Signal Hill Elementary, both in the Long Beach district.
Steinhauser’s salary will be negotiated, but district officials said they expect it will be less than Cohn’s current $230,000 a year.
Steinhauser called Cohn a great mentor and teacher.
“I am truly indebted to him for all of the opportunities he’s given to me in my life,” Steinhauser said.
School Board President Bobbie Smith said the board is pleased to welcome Steinhauser as superintendent, but added that it will miss Cohn’s innovative and creative leadership.
Cohn called Steinhauser an “outstanding hands-on leader” who will work hard to continue to improve the district.
“As long as that team stays together and as long as the board of education stays together, I think you will have a lot of stability and continuity in the superintendency,” Cohn said.
In January, Cohn was one of two California educators to win the 2001 Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in education, one of the most prestigious honors in the field. He was honored for his work in promoting opportunities among minority students in a school district that has its share of big-city problems, such as drugs, crime and racial tensions.
Under Cohn, the district has improved attendance, lowered suspension and dropout rates, and increased the number of students enrolled in college preparatory courses.
When Cohn was 23, he abandoned plans to enter the priesthood and became a teacher. He worked as a counselor, administrator and area superintendent in Long Beach schools for more than 20 years before becoming the district’s first African American superintendent in 1992.
In 1994, the district made national headlines when it became the first public school district in the country to make uniforms mandatory for its elementary and middle school students.
Cohn also was instrumental in implementing a program that required third-graders who needed help in reading to attend summer school, and another that required failing eighth-graders to attend a year of preparatory school before high school.
Also under his leadership, Long Beach Unified launched single-gender classes at a middle school.
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