Chris Steinhauser

Superintendent Chris Steinhauser at his desk.

Long Beach’s longtime education chief will retire at the end of the academic year.

Christopher Steinhauser, who has been the superintendent for the Long Beach Unified School District for 18 years, announced his retirement at the school board meeting Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“I love my job,” Steinhauser said in a written statement. “But the time is right to announce that I will be retiring at the end of this academic year.”

Felton Williams, the Board of Education president, thanked Steinhauser for his nearly four decades of work with the school district and laid out the next step in finding his successor.

“We appreciate Superintendent Steinhauser’s six months of notice,” Williams said, “which will allow us to use the coming weeks and months to select a successor, and to ensure a smooth transition.”

Steinhauser is a product of the Long Beach school district, having been a student there from kindergarten to high school. He graduated from Wilson High School in 1977.

He then went on to Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and a master’s degree in educational administration.

Then, 38 years ago, he became a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School. That’s where he met his wife, Alida, a now-retired teacher for the district. His two children also attended Long Beach schools.

He became superintendent in 2002, leading California’s third-largest school district. It boasts about 72,000 students and is a minority-majority district, with Hispanics comprising 57% of its pupil population.

And 65% of the district’s students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, according to Steinhauser’s biography on the LBUSD website.

Yet, by most accounts, the district has thrived — consistently narrowing achievement gaps.

In 2018, for example, 51% of students met or exceeded standards in English, up 3 percentage points over the previous year and up 9 points since 2015, according to the district. In math, 43% of students districtwide met or exceeded standards; that was a 4-percentage-point increase from 2017 and a 13-point increase since 2015.

“Overall,” LBUSD said in an August 2018 statement, “the school district has achieved some of the greatest gains among the state’s major school systems.”

Long Beach school officials have attributed much of that to Steinhauser’s leadership.

“Long Beach is a phenomenally better place for generations to come,” said school board member Megan Kerr, “because of his great work.”

Kerr was elected to the school board in 2014, but, she said in a phone interview Wednesday, her relationship with Steinhauser far predates her current position. She first worked with him as a PTA parent and volunteer in 2000, before he was appointed to the district’s top job.

“It’s just been an honor to work with him and vision with him,” Kerr said, “and do what’s best for the kids every single day.”

Under Steinhauser’s leadership, LBUSD also worked with the Long Beach Community College District and Cal State Long Beach to institute the College Promise, which grants those who graduate from the school district two years of free tuition at City College and guaranteed admission to the local state university for all who meet the requirements.

“We have been so fortunate to have Chris Steinhauser lead Long Beach Unified,” Mayor Robert Garcia said on Twitter Wednesday night. “He leaves behind a world-class public school system made up of amazing teachers and staff.

“Chris has been a friend, mentor, and partner,” he added, “I wish him well and thank him for his leadership and kindness.”

Steinhauser, in his statement, thanked everyone from faculty to support staff and parents, and added that he will help with the transition.

He also said the school district is in good shape for the future.

“The future is bright for this organization,” Steinhauser said, “and I look forward to seeing the continued progress of our students and schools.”

Still, after all this time, the significance of his retirement did not appear lost on Steinhauser.

“I have remained connected to this school district ever since I began as a kindergartner here 56 years ago,” Steinhauser said in his statement. “I met my wife on the job. My kids graduated from our schools.

“After so many years of working here,” he added, “I found it difficult to write this statement without becoming emotional.”

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