Austin Beutner, who took over as head of the Los Angeles public school system, the second largest in the country, during a leadership crisis and guided it through the coronavirus pandemic, has said he will step down as superintendent at the end of June.
“This job is extremely demanding, even in ordinary times,” said Mr Beutner, 61, in an interview, adding: “It has been three years.”
Los Angeles school administrators had asked him to extend the three-year contract he signed in 2018. But Mr Beutner, a former financier who served as editor of the Los Angeles Times and deputy mayor, wrote in a letter to the board of directors. Wednesday that he preferred to move on.
Across the country, civic leaders tired by the pandemic are reassessing their service.
Almost a fifth of Massachusetts mayors have said they will not stand for re-election. In San Francisco, where political controversies over school names devastated the school board as families demanded a return to face-to-face classes, the principal decided not to stay until the board agreed in writing not to adopt a new mandates unrelated to the reopening, for the moment.
Mr. Beutner’s tenure in Los Angeles has been filled with crises.
Months after his arrival, teachers seeking to curb the influence of charter schools announced their first strike in three decades. The strike was settled after six days. Then, in 2020, came the pandemic, emptying the classrooms of the approximately 650,000 students served by the district, most of them from low-income households.
Operating under emergency powers and leveraging his contacts in the philanthropic and private sectors, Mr Beutner has been both praised and criticized for his handling of the pandemic.
The district has built an extraordinary social service network, providing more than 123 million meals to children and adults in need, more than 30 million masks and other items, as well as mass tests and vaccinations against the disease. Covid-19.
But California was among the last states to resume in-person teaching, in part because Beutner had agreed with district teachers to make reopening conditional on immunization access.