Francis Laufenberg, the former Long Beach Unified School District superintendent who retired in 1985 after a 36-year career in education, died in his sleep Tuesday at his Villa Park home. He was 88.
Laufenberg successfully led the school district through the minefield of Proposition 13 cutbacks, unfunded desegregation costs, and other huge challenges. During his years as superintendent, the school district paid off its school bonds and became completely debt free. The district successfully negotiated multiple year employee contracts and enjoyed freedom from the labor strife that affected many others. A massive voluntary integration effort averted costly, divisive litigation and court orders.
Born in Rock Island, Ill., on Aug. 5, 1921, Laufenberg served his country as a Marine aviator from 1943 to 1946 and began his career in education two years later, starting out as a teacher in the Los Angeles City School District. He later served as a counselor and business supervisor in Los Angeles before accepting an assistant superintendent position in Oxnard.
Laufenberg joined Long Beach Unified in 1960 as budget director and went on to become assistant superintendent, associate superintendent and deputy superintendent before being selected for the top post in 1978. A joint resolution passed by the California Legislature upon his retirement in 1985 credited him with developing an exemplary desegregation program and creating a model staff development academy.
Throughout his career, Laufenberg also participated in a number of civic and professional organizations. He is survived by his wife, Lee; his daughter, Linda; his son, Larry; and two grandchildren.
Information on memorial services is pending.