L.A. school board names Megan Reilly, head of business services, as interim superintendent
The Los Angeles Board of Education has appointed Megan Reilly, who oversees the district’s massive finance, business and operations arm, as interim superintendent two days after schools chief Austin Beutner announced he would not seek a new contract when his current agreement expires on June 30.
Beutner had suggested that the board should choose a current member of his senior staff for the permanent job — for the sake of continuity. But the Board of Education is not prepared to go that route. Instead, Reilly will serve while the board begins a formal search.
It was not immediately clear whether Reilly wishes to be a candidate for superintendent. Beutner is expected to stay on through June and coordinate closely with Reilly. No major departures in policy would be expected under Reilly during this interim period.
Superintendent searches can take a year or more, but can sometimes be concluded quickly. Beutner said an insider could be in place in time to welcome students back in the fall.
Reilly is deputy superintendent and, based on her current responsibilities, appears to be the most senior administrator after Beutner. She has frequently served in his place at meetings of the Board of Education. Her specific areas of responsibility have been business services and operations, which include facilities, finances, technology, school culture and safety, according to a recent district organization chart. She has not had responsibility over instruction and for services to students with special needs.
Reilly, 55, is on her second tour of duty with the nation’s second-largest school system.
She had served as chief financial officer for L.A. Unified before becoming chief business officer for the Santa Clara County Office of Education in 2017. The veteran business manager returned to L.A. Unified in 2019 to become deputy superintendent.
“I am excited to return to Los Angeles Unified,” Reilly said at the time. “I love the work. I know many of the people and the communities we serve. I believe in the strength and beauty of Los Angeles Unified’s community of schools, which is all about the people. This work has taught me the social and moral responsibility that we adults must make a positive difference in a child’s life. I look forward to the work ahead with the team on behalf of students.”
Her previous departure from L.A. Unified appears to have been amicable. She had been notable, in part, as the town crier of bad financial times ahead. When she left, L.A. Unified faced budget challenges from declining enrollment, high fixed costs, rising pension obligations and costly retiree health benefits.
As befitting her role of financial steward, Reilly spoke publicly of potentially dire consequences to come and spoke even more bluntly behind the scenes, sometimes warning that current spending practices and union contractual obligations were unsustainable.
“It’s scary,” Reilly said about looming retiree healthcare obligations in 2015. “It has been a growing concern that our liabilities have been increasing year after year and slowly becoming larger than our assets. We’re not there yet, but we probably have a couple of years to go.”
She later oversaw the work of an independent panel of experts that, in the end, essentially agreed with her concerns about the future.
That same year, she warned internally that the district’s first pay raise in years was too generous. She lost that argument.
She returned to the school system in the wake of the January 2019 teachers strike, which resulted in a contract that district critics called unsustainable.
The district avoided the predicted day of financial reckoning thanks to a growing state economy. That growth came to an abrupt end with the economic shutdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, but imminent financial peril was avoided due to state and government aid. This assistance has brought substantial resources to the district, at least for the next two years. The picture after that is uncertain.
During the pandemic, Reilly helped oversee the district’s Grab & Go meal distribution centers, the allocation of computers and internet hot spots to students and educators, and the planning for reopening campuses. Elementary schools opened with a half-time in-person schedule over the last two weeks. Middle and high schools open next week, also on a half-time schedule.
Reilly has more than three decades of experience in business services, working in various roles including as a budget analyst and comptroller. But she’s not an L.A. Unified lifer. She spent 17 years in the federal civil service in Northern California, holding administrative positions with the Naval Postgraduate School and the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, including as chief business executive.
She first joined the school system in 2007, one of the district’s last major imports from the Navy, during the administration of Supt. David Brewer, a retired admiral. The Navy connection, however, was well established before Brewer’s 2006 arrival. By then, the district had brought in a fleet of former naval officers to resurrect the district’s school construction and modernization program, which became the largest such effort in the nation.
Reilly has a bachelor’s degree in history from Loyola University, a master’s in management from Naval Postgraduate School and a law degree from Monterey College of Law.
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