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Letters to the Editor: Austin Beutner gets high marks for his crisis leadership at LAUSD

A closeup of LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner speaking at a news conference in Los Angeles
LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on April 22.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I was initially unimpressed with the 2018 hiring of Austin Beutner as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. But through his handling of the pandemic and watching his humanity at work, I became a supporter of his. (“When will L.A. Unified schools get some stability at the top?” editorial, April 21)

However, the problem has always been that he was not an educator, and the jury will always view his tenure as that of an educational outlier. Classroom achievements never really took off because of factors such as the teachers strike and then the pandemic. I’m certain that the stress of these events took its toll and made Beutner decide to opt out at the conclusion of his contract.

Unfortunately, several months of prep time for Beutner’s replacement are hardly enough to absorb the massive gravity of the position. Without much time or input from their predecessor, Beutner’s replacement will need all the help and good fortune they can get. Good luck.

John Reed, Hemet

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To the editor: There is only faint praise and barely any gratitude for Beutner’s yeoman service to families and children in Los Angeles public schools over the last three years. I appreciated his apparent modesty, honesty and devotion to public education.

Beutner won implacable enmity from United Teachers Los Angeles, whose members went on strike and excoriated him for being open to charter schools, which offer choice and hope to dissatisfied families that want better for their underserved kids.

When the pandemic closed down every classroom in the school district, Beutner secured computers so every child could access remote instruction, and he made sure food distribution centers were staffed and stocked daily to feed every student’s family.

Frances O’Neill Zimmerman, La Jolla

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To the editor: It matters little who the next superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District is, because reform takes place from the bottom up. That was the conclusion of the first broad study about the link between superintendents and student achievement by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

What is far more important in improving education quality for all students are enlightened principals, skilled teachers and deeply involved community members. Both New York City and Los Angeles should have learned that lesson from their past experiences.

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Walt Gardner, Los Angeles

The writer taught for 28 years in LAUSD.


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