School & District Management

L.A. Unified Hires Michelle King as New Superintendent

By Corey Mitchell — January 12, 2016 2 min read
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Internal candidate Michelle King is the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

King, 54, becomes the first woman in more than 80 years, and the first African-American woman, to lead the nation’s second-largest school district. Her selection marks the end of a nationwide search that began last fall.

“Ms. King has experience as a teacher, administrator, and top district leader, and is known for her collaboration with parents, teachers, and the community,” school board President Steve Zimmer said in a statement.

King has spent her entire career in L.A. Unified. She succeeds Ramon Cortines, who retired this month after serving three times as leader of the district. She had led the district since Cortines’ departure and served as top deputy for him and his predeccesor, John Deasy.

King’s formal promotion from chief deputy superintendent is expected to happen when her contract is signed today.

The challenging job has led to a revolving door of leadership in the 650,000-student district. King’s promotion will mark the ninth time the district has hired a new leader in the past 20 years.

King’s deep knowledge of the district will come in handy as she works to stabilize the sprawling, financially challenged district. The school system’s budget deficit is expected to rise above $300 million within two school years.

She’ll also work under an activist school board with often competing interests. As previously reported on this blog, the influx of outside cash has turned the district’s school board elections into a “national showdown pitting the long-standing influence of teachers’ unions against the expanding imprint of deep-pocketed education activists.”

Rising Through The Ranks

A Los Angeles native and product of the school system, King decided on a teaching career while majoring in biology at UCLA.

King began her 31-year career in the district as a middle math and science teacher. From there, she rose through the ranks from assistant principal, principal, chief administrator of secondary instruction, local district superintendent, chief of staff to the superintendent, senior deputy superintendent, and chief deputy superintendent.

“I want to ensure that the enthusiasm for teaching and learning that I experienced in LAUSD ... is the reality for all of our students,” King said in a statement.

According to the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Unified considered a host of candidates including St. Louis schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams, Fremont, Calif., Superintendent Jim Morris, and San Francisco Superintendent Richard Carranza, who withdrew his name from consideration.

The Times reported that the school board split over “several finalists before uniting in a 7-0 vote for King.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.