Los Angeles Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Michelle King was named today the district’s next superintendent.
“What a historic moment this is,” LAUSD board President Steven Zimmer said. “A daughter of our city, a student and graduate of LAUSD, a teacher from our schools, a principal from our system, a leader of our community will now take the helm with us together to lead this district, our schools and our community for breakthroughs in public education for the students that need us
King, 54, has been with the district for 31 years as a teacher and administrator. She is the first woman to lead the district in more than 80 years and the first black woman to ever lead the nation’s second-largest district.
“I am honored and proud to be selected as the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District,” King said. “I again want to thank the Board of Education for their confidence and support in allowing me to lead the students, employees and families of this incredible district.”
She said as the first black woman to lead the district, she wants to “inspire students of all races and backgrounds to pursue their dreams by demonstrating what is possible in L.A. Unified.”
King said she plans to expand efforts to engage parents, LAUSD unions and other stakeholders to take an active effort in moving the district forward, and “create new pathways for all students and give them the tools they need to succeed.”
The board is expected to finalize her contract at its meeting Tuesday. The selection of King was unanimous.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines retired from day-to-day operations of the district in December, and officially stepped aside Jan. 2. The board has been conducting a search for a replacement since August, while King has been serving as the interim leader of the district since Cortines stepped aside.
According to the district, King attended Century Park and Windsor Hills elementary schools and Palms Junior High School. She graduated from Palisades High School and attended UCLA.
She began her teaching career at Porter Middle School in Granada Hills, teaching math and science, before becoming the math, science and aerospace coordinator at Wright Middle School in Westchester. She later served as assistant principal and principal at Hamilton High School in Cheviot Hills.
She served as Cortines’ chief of staff during his previous administration, then as a deputy under Superintendent John Deasy and again under Cortines following Deasy’s departure.
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s decision to close all its schools Tuesday in response to a terrorist threat directed at unspecified but multiple campuses was unprecedented, it was also the right thing to do.
It’s easy to criticize when you don’t have to make the decision, or with the benefit of new information, but in our view, Superintendent Ray Cortines’ instinct to protect students, faculty and school employees first than investigate deeper was right on.
The fact that New York officials facing a similar threat decided to keep their schools open should in no way discredit the action taken by LA Unified. Their decision was based on what they knew and when they knew it, and unlike Cortines, with the knowledge that the same threat had been made to another school district: LA Unified.
Let’s face it, recent terrorist events have us all at least a little on edge. Grandiose statements by politicians that we should not be ruled by fear may sound good, but the words are of little comfort to parents concerned about their child’s safety.
We can only imagine how angry parents would be to find out there was a threat but the district did nothing.
The email may have turned out to be a hoax, but that should not mean that the experience was a waste of time and money. It should be looked at as an unexpected, but valuable learning opportunity for the world we live in now.
The information garnered from the district’s response to the threat should now be looked at with a critical lens to identify where district systems and employees performed well and where they failed. Did the robocalls do their job? Did everyone get the call or information? If not, why not?
What if it there had been explosives in the school, would the actions taken have resulted in saving lives?
And lest we forget, the threat of terrorism is not the only danger we live with today. There are threats of nature, like earthquakes and powerful El Nino storms that could cause wide-scale destruction, forcing school closures. Are the emergency notification systems the district has in place sufficient, or do they need to be honed and improved?
These are all questions that should be answered and shared with the public.
So, while we believe LA Unified did the right thing when it closed schools Tuesday, the true test of their success will be what they do with that they have learned.