LOS ANGELES — More than half a million Los Angeles Unified School District students headed back to school Aug. 14 as classes resumed at the nation’s second-largest school district.
The school year marks the first for Austin Beutner as LAUSD superintendent, and he toured a variety of campuses to meet with students and staff throughout the district to mark the first day of classes.
Beutner framed his vision for his first year as superintendent Aug. 9 during a speech to 1,500 principals, vice principals and administrators at Hollywood High School.
Beutner said he is committed to rebuilding the district with schools and classrooms as the priority and reducing the bureaucracy by putting resources where they are needed most.
“This chapter will be built on simplicity and focus, not on quick fixes and new programs,” Beutner said. “We need to build on the things that are working and change the things that are not. We need to put our resources where they are needed most.
“We need to reduce the bureaucracy and red tape so you can focus on the important things — working with teachers, developing relationships with students and their families, and making each school a place of great teaching and learning.”
Beutner also challenged school leaders to do whatever it takes to improve the results of students and committed to be a relentless advocate for the students and schools of the district.
“I accepted this job because I believe in the potential of the students who come to L.A. Unified schools every single day,” Beutner said. “Working together, we can help our students do great things.”
While many students are getting a great education, the district struggles to ensure all students have access to great schools. The superintendent noted that a record number of students are graduating and progress has been made in student learning, but the school district has a long way to go.
Of every 100 students who enter LAUSD high schools, 12 will drop out, 77 are graduating from high school, and only 12 will graduate from college.
“Not all of our students have access to great schools and, therefore, they are not on a path to college or a 21st century career,” Beutner said.
The district also faces fiscal challenges. When next school year starts, the district will have about $700 million in savings and, if nothing changes, about $450 million of that will be spent covering the deficit for the year.
Beutner outlined how the district will work to put schools and classrooms at the center by:
• Empowering school leadership to make decisions that reflect the unique needs of the students, school and community.
• Focusing on equity to ensure every school is a great school serving all communities and giving every student the opportunity to go to college or prepare for a 21st-century career.
• Engaging the entire community of Los Angeles — students, families, teachers, school leaders, civic and grassroots organizations, the business, labor and philanthropic communities, faith-based communities and city, county and state elected leaders — and ask them to help provide every child with a great education.
• Reducing the bureaucracy to move resources to schools and classrooms, reducing the time school leaders spend on managing bureaucracy and compliance, and increasing the time and focus on getting results for students.
“Today, I am inspired by young people, educators and parents as we kick off the new school year,” school board President Mónica García told the audience at Hollywood High. “We love you, we believe in you and we have high expectations for you. L.A. Unified has an important past, but it is the future we are creating.”