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New year, new superintendent

Michelle King knows what it’s like to be student in LA Unified. She understands the issues that come with being both inside the classroom as a teacher, and outside the class as a parent. She also knows how schools work, having first-hand experience as a high school principal. Now, King is adding another impressive item to her resume, a position that encompasses all of her previous experience: new superintendent.

After the retirement of previous superintendent, Ramon C. Cortines, the Board of Education launched a search for a new administrator, looking nationally at people from Miami and Maryland. However, the replacement originated from the center of the district, with the vote to welcome Michelle King, who then served as Chief Deputy to Cortines, to be the next superintendent.

Her appointment unleashed praise from past critics of LAUSD, who previously expressed concern over the board’s tendency to select district “outsiders” such as John Deasy and David L. Brewer III, who executed less than stellar initiatives.

According to the LA Times, when King left her principal position at Hamilton High School, she garnered praise from the faculty and staff for her ability to bring stability and strong leadership to the school.

In just over a month in her position, King has hit the ground running. Already, she created teams to “engage community partners and determine the best way to invest our limited resources so that we are maximizing opportunities for all students,” she told Le Sabre. In addition, she launched her tour of all the schools in the district, beginning with Century Park Elementary School in Inglewood, where she attended kindergarten.  

Besides visiting schools, King’s top priorities include: having every student graduate high school feeling prepared for college and/or career paths, balancing LAUSD’s three-year budget in a way that will ensure high quality education for all students, and effectively engaging students, families, and school communities to further understand challenges students face.

King believes that a vital part of reaching success is to collaborate with every person involved in the education process. She said, “One of the most important lessons I have learned is engaging and collaborating with students and parents in the educational process and empowering them to make decisions about what works and doesn’t work for their school.”

In order to effectively solve issues currently facing students, LAUSD elected a new student representative to serve on the school board, whose purpose is to advocate for the needs of his peers and accurately express their perspectives to the board officials.

For Cleveland specifically, one major issue is growing class sizes. Students often frantically rush to class because they are not guaranteed a desk and the faculty finds it difficult to teach their students. Since working as a teacher at Porter and Wright Middle Schools, King recognizes first-hand the difficulties schools face when confronted with enormous class sizes. She will work closely with her leadership team and the school board to analyze the issue and learn how to manage resources in order to achieve a student to teacher ratio that cultivates success in the classroom.

Continuing her core ideas in collaboration, the district recently passed a resolution to improve graduation rates that emphasizes partnership between the teachers, administrators, and families. On the resolution, she said, “For teachers, it’s about bringing them more to the table in terms of designing the curriculum…they use to guide our students. For administrators it’s about collaborating with their peers in their local districts, sharing ideas, and providing daily supports for their teachers, students, and communities.

Similarly, King considers magnet programs, such as Cleveland’s CORE program, to be significant players in providing multiple “pathways” to students to lead them to graduation.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing all of LAUSD is the looming budget crisis, which has plagued the district since the economic recession in 2008. However, King immediately began developing a solution by working with the Blue Ribbon Panel, a team of experts who have studied LAUSD’s financial situation. She also plans on organizing “study sessions with the Board…to find common understanding on how to invest wisely in our educational priorities.”

King is a woman raised in LA Unified, from a kindergarten student and launching her career as an educator in the district as a teacher’s assistant in 1978, King has truly been a part of LAUSD. She told Le Sabre, “Through my experiences, this District has really become my second family, and I intend to approach my work every single day through that lens: making decisions knowing how they affect all members of the family.”

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