Andy Cantwell has been named the new Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services by the Burbank Unified School District in an email sent to parents by Superintendent Dr. Matt Hill last week.
The email stated that Cantwell “began his administrative career with the Santa Barbara County Education Office working in finance and human resources. Mr. Cantwell earned his bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA, his Juris Doctor, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis. He also received his school business management certificate from USC which allowed him to become a CASBO certified Chief Business Official.”
Cantwell was hired in the Ojai Unified School District in Ventura County in 2015 as the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, and two years later in 2017 was promoted to Superintendent of Schools for the district. That job only lasted two years as he announced in January of 2019 that he was leaving the Superintendents job to take a position as Head of School at Grace Academy, a private Christian school just outside of Austin, Texas, at the end of the school year.
He told Alexa D’Angelo of the Ventura County Star in 2019 that he was leaving after just two years because “My wife and I made the decision together,” Cantwell said. “We feel it’s what’s best for our young family.”
The email sent to District parents did not mention his last job at the conservative Christian school. In its Statement of Faith, Grace Academy states that “We believe that God created man as two distinct genders, male and female, and that a person’s gender and gender identity are determined by God; that God ordained marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman as the basis for the family which is entrusted with the responsibility for raising and educating children; that God established the sexual union for use exclusively within the bonds of marriage; and therefore that all sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is contrary to God’s design and purpose.“
When asked why Cantwell’s previous employment at Grace Academy was not included in the announcement, Hill said in an email response, “His last employer was a law firm. We did not list that or Grace Academy because the bio was focused on his former roles that were most currently aligned with this role.” He did not respond back when asked how long he had spent at the school and the law firm.
With the addition of the law firm, BUSD will now become Cantwell’s sixth job in about the past ten years and fourth in the last six years, going back to 2017 when he was appointed the Superintendent in Ojai.
Burbank Board of Education member Steve Ferguson, who identifies himself as a gay man, was disappointed that Cantwell’s full job history was not disclosed in advance. “As an institution, we welcome students, staff, and families with personal views from across the spectrum. I’m greatly disappointed however, that greater effort was not made by the administration, in advance, to negate the impacts of this information, which several members of (the) community have elevated,” said Ferguson.
“This reactive pattern sets no one up for success, and we owe that to our students, staff, and families. On September 15th, the board learned from a survey that almost half of our students didn’t feel staff respected their pronouns, and over 30% of LGBTQ students did not feel safe or included by district staff. The experience of these students and the impacts of this information clearly deserves greater attention than was paid in this process.”
During his time on the Board, Ferguson has worked actively to improve belonging by taking steps to recognize the needs of the LGBTQ+ community we serve. “We now celebrate pride month and have worked to improve mental health resource access, staff training on inclusivity, and mandated training on suicide prevention for staff (which disproportionately impacts LGBTQ youth). Lastly, we have begun more pointed assessments to understand the experience of LGBTQ youth while I have been a member of the board.”
Although disappointed in the process, Ferguson is hoping for the best. “This institution will continue to celebrate the identity of all the students we serve, and I wish Mr. Cantwell success as he takes on this role. We need a proactive, considered, and compassionate new direction for this district, and the board majority owes that to our school community.”