L.A. Unified hires respected D.C. principal to lead arts education

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The leader of one of the nation’s top arts high schools has accepted a position in charge of arts education for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Rory Pullens, 56, has served as head of school and chief executive officer at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Pullens had been recruited by the nation’s second-largest school system for several years. He could not be immediately reached for comment.


L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said he was “thrilled.”

“He brings an extraordinary background in the arts along with a string of astounding successes in his previous posts,” Deasy said.

Previously, Pullens had twice accepted a job heading L.A.’s flagship downtown arts high school, but then backed out. One time he withdrew to deal with a family crisis. On the second occasion, he reconsidered after the Ellington school community made a concerted effort to retain him.

Besides running the Ellington school, Pullens spent more than a decade as an arts administrator in Denver, where he designed the first elementary arts school for the public school system there, according to his posted biography. He worked for nearly two decades as a writer, director and producer in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Pullens will receive a salary of $147,086 on a one-year contract plus a $10,000 moving allowance.

According to the district job description, Pullens will direct the entire arts education program at L.A. Unified “to ensure increased arts ... opportunities” and to integrate arts into instruction. L.A. Unified made substantial cuts in this area during the recent recession, some of which are gradually being restored.

Earlier, when Pullens was recruited to head the downtown arts high school, philanthropist Eli Broad offered to supplement his salary. But a staffer with Broad’s foundation said her organization was unaware of the hiring.


Broad had encouraged L.A. Unified to bring in a nationally respected figure such as Pullens to lead the arts high school, which is named after former L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon Cortines.

Another high-profile arts school administrator, Kim Bruno, has since taken on the job and is finishing her first year at the campus. She had been principal at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City.