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Outgoing LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner Talks COVID Response, Legacy

Click here for part two of DeMarco Morgan's interview with outgoing Superintendent Austin Beutner.

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Under Austin Beutner's reign as Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent, graduation rates reached an all-time high, scores increased on state tests in math and English and suspension rates dropped to an all-time low.

Austin Beutner
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 05: LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 05: LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner announces the launch of 3DE (Three Dimensional Education) in partnership with Junior Achievement of Southern California at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The launch in the fall will be the first 3DE project-based instructional model in California. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

However, one of the greatest tests for Beutner came when COVID-19 brought the world to a screeching halt. His quick decision to close school campuses on March 13, 2020, saved lives.

Now, students and teachers are back in school with what he says is the highest standard of safety of any school district in the nation.

So, why is he leaving?

"I took this job three years ago, it's been 30 years in dog years," Beutner told CBS2 News This Morning's DeMarco Morgan in a sit-down interview.

Beutner tells Morgan that funding was one of the biggest struggles he faced in his time as superintendent.

"First, we struggled from adequacy of funding," Beutner said. "We've been advocating at the national level, the local level, the state level, for what we've called the Marshall Plan in schools, so that we have sufficient funding to provide more teachers in schools. We've accomplished that. We had to rebuild trust with those who work in schools, and that sense of collaboration, because the work is done in the classroom. And we had to prove to the community that we would stand tall for them when it was needed."

LAUSD's campuses were fully closed from March of 2020 until April of this year. During that time, the second largest district in the nation had to ensure that its students and their families had the tools necessary for remote learning, easy access to school food programs and a myriad of other things.

"We made sure half-a-million kids had a computer and internet access to stay connected and continue learning, and so we've had to extend ourselves and recognize, whatever that child needs, that family needs, we are going to find a way to solve their problem as best we can," Beutner added.

In April, Beutner announced he would step down when his contract expires on June 30.

"Because I think we are leaving it in a good place," Beutner said. "We've accomplished a lot over these three years. For me, it's been seven-day weeks, 15-hour days. I think it's a good time to transition to the next."

"We've righted the ship," he continues. "We're headed in a good direction, we've got a great leadership team in place internally who can continue the work."

To those who disagreed with Beutner, or misunderstood him, he has this to say:

"If you're looking for perfection, you've found the wrong person," Beutner explains. "We're making it better each and every day, and that's a process. Martin Luther King used to say, bend the arc towards justice. That's what we're doing. We're bending the arc towards better for our students. It's years and years and decades of neglect that we see in public schools."

When asked if he has any regrets?

"I wish, looking back, that we would have done more to tell our story. There are fantastic things happening in schools throughout the communities we serve," Beutner said.

"I want to be remembered as someone who cared, who was willing to roll up their sleeves, do the work and try to make a difference. How will I be remembered? Time will be the guide."

Beutner didn't hint at what is next for him.

"I'll be working up until midnight on June 30th," Beutner said.

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