Before the end of the year, members of the Los Angeles school board intend to announce the most important decision of their term: the hiring of a new superintendent.
The post, considered one of the most difficult in public education, comes at a critical time for the country’s second-largest school district. The system is teeming with billions of dollars in coronavirus relief aid, additional federal funding, and increased state tax revenues. But there is mountain work ahead. Students are in crisis – struggling to recover from the profound learning setbacks associated with the pandemic as well as mental health issues brought on by prolonged periods of isolation and other hardships. The district is also plagued by declining enrollment and a long-term structural budget deficit.
“The past 21 months have been devastating for so many of the families we serve at LA Unified,” said Kelly Gonez, school board chairperson. “The pandemic has created an unequal burden of disease, death, job loss and trauma that has fallen disproportionately on communities of color. Our superintendent will need to consider the profound impacts of the pandemic, the uprisings for racial justice, and the urgent needs of our students and families. “
Officials – who are interviewing in the later stages of their national search – would not confirm who applied. But Gonez said the new leader should be “a seasoned educator who can unify the larger Los Angeles community, commit to a long term, center the voices and needs of those who are historically most underserved, s” tap the talents of our system and perform at scale. to ensure we achieve long-term goals for our students.
A pool of potential candidates emerged based on interviews with education leadership and recruitment sources across the country.
Among those currently in the school system, the candidates are believed to include the Acting Superintendent. Megan Reilly, Director of Studies Alison Yoshimoto-Towery and Regional Administrator Frances Baez. Someone who straddles the insider-outsider line is Joan Sullivan, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which operates 19 schools on behalf of the district.
These four candidates have become an open secret, despite the Education Council’s efforts to protect all candidates from disclosure. External candidates are more difficult to identify and could come from fields other than education.
But some people would emerge as potential candidates in any research in LA – based on their experience and alignment with the goals of the board, the 4-3 majority of which are united by an aggressive desire for change.
In a school system made up of 90% students of color, of which 74% are Latino students and 8% are black students, it appears that applicants are also mostly people of color. Sources told The Times that the first scheduled interviews with eight or nine candidates did not include white men. There were also no black candidates, although the process was early and the situation could change.
Baez is the only Latina among the likely group with current district ties; the outside group had to have a strong Latino representation.
Candidates who might be part of the discussion in any search for a leadership position in a major district like New York, LA, Chicago, or San Diego, which is also looking for a superintendent, include the Miami-Dade County Superintendent of Schools. . Alberto Carvalho.
Carvalho, who is of Portuguese descent and immigrated to the United States at age 17, having to learn to speak English, accepted the post of New York City superintendent in 2018, but quickly changed his mind, deciding to stay in Miami.
Another is Richard Carranza, who got the job in New York when Carvalho stepped down. He resigned in March. Carranza interviewed for the job at LA in 2015 before stepping down. Another name on a perennial shortlist would be the longtime Dallas superintendent. Mike Hinojosa, who defied the attempts of Texas Governor Greg Abbott to prohibit the obligation to cover the face at school.
Others on the outside roster could include former Baltimore City Schools Superintendent Andrés Alonso, who was on the LA shortlist in 2018 before stepping down from the exam; Superintendent of the Unified School District for the City of Sacramento. Jorge Aguilar; Jose Banda, a former superintendent in Anaheim, Seattle and Sacramento; longtime Chula Vista Supt. Francisco Escobedo; Portland, Ore., Supt. Guadalupe Guerrero; and Rhode Island Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green.
Closer to home, LA County Office of Education Supt. Debra Duardo – a former senior administrator at LA Unified – would likely have a serious look, but said she didn’t apply.
“I look forward to working closely with the next LAUSD Superintendent,” said Duardo.
Another insider-outside who has not applied is Glendale Unified Supt. Vivian Ekchian, who has held senior positions at LA Unified including acting superintendent before the selection of Austin Beutner, LA’s newest school principal.
Over 90% of parents, community members and staff said in a recent district survey that they wanted the next superintendent to have “experience working in public schools as a teacher and / or administrator. “. At about the same rate, those who responded also asked for someone who has experience “working in and with large, diverse communities” and “managing a very large organization in transition”.
The school board could seek another kind of leader, as it did in 2018, when, by a 4-to-3 vote behind closed doors, members opted for Beutner, a businessman with no management experience. education. He guided the school system through a teachers’ strike and the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic before resigning at the end of June.
Beutner’s candidacy and his tenure as superintendent were aided by his deep connections within the LA philanthropic community. Someone in that mold would be Miguel Santana, head of the Weingart Foundation, who was previously the general manager of the county’s Fairplex complex and administrative head for the city of Los Angeles. He said he wasn’t interested but had some ideas on what LA Unified should be looking for.
“The district has to go through a period of stability,” Santana said. “He needs someone who can start from day one and has credibility with the whole community.”
The district could also choose an outsider known for his political skills – for intensely political work – as the school board did in 2000 with the selection of Colorado Governor Roy Romer for three terms. Romer turned that political sense into a six-year stint and left on his own terms. No one since has lasted even four years. Romer called this the most difficult job he has ever had.
A potential candidate with broad political skills – if interested – would be former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Villaraigosa had a keen interest in education – as mayor he tried to gain authority over LA Unified but lost in court, and he once criticized United Teachers Los Angeles as “the only unshakeable obstacle. “to the improvement of local public education.
The former mayor, who is traveling outside the country, was not immediately available for comment.
Those currently connected to LA Unified each bring relevant skills and experience.
Reilly, the Acting Superintendent, has management experience both outside and inside education and a solid grasp of the financial structure of the district. But she was never a teacher or a public school principal, which opened the door to other internal candidates.
Yoshimoto-Towery is the person with the most leadership experience in academia and has designed the learning initiatives that are currently underway. Baez has been in the district for over 25 years, moving from teacher to administrator – he recently became superintendent of Local District Central, one of the six regional branches of LA Unified. Sullivan is well known in the philanthropic community and has experience trying to straighten out some of the district schools where students have struggled the most.