Rory Pullens, head of school at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, is headed to L.A., where he will run a performing arts school for the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Pullens will take over the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts on Nov. 1.

Pullens, 53, has headed Ellington since late 2006, when he came to D.C. from the Denver School of the Arts. He has drawn praise for the school’s improved academics, staffing and high-end theatrical productions.

“It’s a big blow to Ellington,” said Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a member of the board of directors of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Project, the partnership (including the Kennedy Center, George Washington University and the Ellington Fund) that runs the school under a contract with DCPS.

Cafritz said Los Angeles officials had been pursuing Pullens for some time to run the three-year-old school. The Times reported that Eli Broad, the influential education philanthropist, was willing to supplement Pullens’ salary from L.A. Unified. Terms of the agreement were not mentioned in the story.

Cafritz said Ellington tried to keep him, but couldn’t compete with the package he was offered in L.A. “It got to the point where the mountain got too high to climb.” She said the board will begin a search for a successor.

“I think there are lot of people across the country who would like to work at Ellington. I think we’ll be able to find someone to replace him We are going to have to take the time to do that.”

Pullens leaves Ellington in reasonably good shape. The school recently received a $17.2 million endowment from the Eugene B. Casey Foundation to benefit the vocal and instrumental departments.