Using his latest State of the Schools address to shine a light on public education, Los Angeles Unified Schools outgoing leader Austin Beutner also took the opportunity to call on all Angelenos to ensure that every child receives a good education.
In a speech centered on the theme that the nation’s second-largest K-12 system served as a model for other districts, Beutner explained why a speech on public education deserves to be given at the Hollywood Bowl, on the same scene where artists like Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix performed.
People come from all over the world to celebrate the cultural heritage of our community, Beutner said of the place in the opening remarks of his speech. I can’t think of a more suitable place to celebrate public education.
The Tuesday, June 15 event featured performances by LAUSD students singing, performing jazz numbers, and conducting the Pledge of Allegiance in multiple languages. They performed in front of a crowd of a few hundred administrators, educators and community members.
Beutner, who will step down as superintendent at the end of this month, devoted much of his speech to highlighting LAUSD’s national response to the coronavirus pandemic, including:
– Austin Beutner (@AustinLASchools) June 15, 2021
- Providing 140 million meals for students and adults in the community – which district officials say is the largest food relief effort in U.S. history – along with 40 million other items such as masks, hand sanitizer, clothes, shoes, toys, books and a school supplies. The district also launched a charitable fund called LA Students Most in Need which raised $ 40 million to support students and their families.
- Provide computing devices and Internet access to half a million students for distance learning. An agreement with Verizon to provide Internet access has since been passed by the state of California and 40 other states.
- Provide weekly COVID-19 testing to students and staff on campus. LAUSD is the only major district in the country to do this, according to Beutner.
- Manage school-based vaccination sites targeting communities hardest hit by the pandemic and where many residents do not have access to health services, and become the only large school district in the country to deploy mobile teams of clinicians to every college and high school campus to make it easier for children 12 and older to get vaccinated.
- Execution, at SoFi Stadium, of the largest vaccination site in the country dedicated to the vaccination of school employees.
Despite criticism from some parents that the district was being overly cautious in its decisions regarding school closures linked to the pandemic, Beutner maintained that both schools closed in March 2020 before there was any transmission. in schools and before state and county authorities issued guidelines and the decision to remain closed in August at the start of the last school year saved lives.
On Tuesday, Beutner also thanked individual donors and organizations that have stepped up to support students during the pandemic.
Fender Guitar, for example, has given away free guitars, electric basses and ukuleles to more than 7,500 students and has partnered with LAUSD music teachers to deliver virtual guitar lessons, while a partnership with PBS to provide daily school-level instructional programs during distance learning has since been replicated by school districts and PBS affiliates in more than 30 states, he said.
The superintendent also acknowledged Amazon, which recently announced a partnership to provide flexible employment opportunities to LAUSD graduates who commit to attending a local community college full-time within their class schedules. Since the partnership was announced last month, school districts in Chicago, Denver and elsewhere have expressed interest in replicating the program, the superintendent said.
A pattern has emerged in recent years – ideas that are born and developed in our schools, ideas that are born and developed in Los Angeles Unified become a model for the nation. And I kinda like the sound of that, Beutner said.
The outgoing superintendent also offered farewell advice to principals who had gathered to hear his speech. First, he said, they should keep schools and students at the center of their work. Second, they need to remember that the magic happens in the classroom, starting with early literacy. Third, LAUSD staff must continue to recognize that schools are the best place to provide services to students and families.
Finally, Beutner said the entire Los Angeles community must step up and support public education.
The future of our community, our state and our nation is in our public schools, he said. I am happy to say that the future looks very bright.
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