LBUSD close to selecting new superintendent

The Long Beach Unified School District’s board of education meeting was mostly dominated by talk about the coronavirus and school closures Wednesday, but officials also revealed they’ve narrowed the search for the district’s next superintendent down to two finalists.

Longtime district head Chris Steinhauser is set to retire at the end of the school year, and the LBUSD has spent the last few months holding community input forums and searching for his replacement.

“We had 10 applicants. We interviewed six, and we have narrowed it down to two finalists,” said Deputy Superintendent of Education Services Ruth Perez Ashley. “The two finalists will be interviewed on April 6th.”

The Long Beach Post has confirmed that one of the two finalists is Deputy Superintendent Jill Baker, long thought to be a frontrunner within the district. Baker has been in charge of the district’s educational component during this week’s rapid transition from classroom to home-learning as COVID-19 spread in Long Beach.

Ashley said that in addition to the public forums, which took place at different schools around the city, the district had 377 participants in its “thought exchange,” where they asked for input about the top qualities the community wanted in a new superintendent.

The feedback was mostly the same, according to Ashley: “The superintendent should be student-centered, have an equity mindset, thick skin, and ethical leadership. People want a leader who can build consensus.”

The district, which has received several national awards for urban education, is not expected to rock the boat with a paradigm-shifting hire, a fact that was underlined by the comments of board member Diana Craighead.

“I really appreciated the process and hearing from the community,” said Craighead. “I sat there so proud meeting after meeting. Everything that people talked about are things that are already being done and qualities that our current superintendent already possesses. That felt really good.”

Board vice president Juan Benitez said that he enjoyed the community outreach process and hopes that the board can find ways to incorporate those forums into its regular business.

“I so appreciated having the opportunity to listen to members of our community in their neighborhoods,” he said.

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