Michelle King joins City Year L.A. for our 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
In honor of Black History Month, City Year Los Angeles wanted to take a moment to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of one of our most inspiring champions: Michelle King, Superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District. She has dedicated her 30-year career to the students of L.A. Unified. Beginning as a teacher in 1985, King worked her way to a principal role in 1997. She excelled while holding various leadership positions at the district, including deputy superintendent, until being named Superintendent in 2016. We sat down with King, the first female African-American Superintendent of our district, to hear more about her vision and hope for the school year.
City Year: A commitment to inclusivity and an unwavering belief in the power of young people are some of our AmeriCorps members' most valuable assets when working with students. In your extensive public school experience, what do you feel are the most important qualities educators need to possess?
Michelle King: I believe one of our most important jobs as educators is to serve as role models for our students on how to achieve while being respectful and good citizens. We need to remind students every day that they have the ability to achieve anything they can imagine as long as they are willing to work and study hard. I encourage every student to dream big and find ways to achieve those dreams, a quality that I hope every one of our educators in L.A. Unified embodies.
CY: We experience firsthand the powerful, lasting effects a positive mentor can have on a student's life. Past or present, who are the mentors that have made a difference in your life?
MK: I was always inspired to work hard and dream big by my parents and family. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege to receive guidance from many great leaders who inspired me by their dedication to service. And, now in a leadership role in the District, I draw inspiration from all of the amazing students I come into contact with every day.
Through all of these sources of mentorship and inspiration, I have learned that 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 communities is critical to success.
CY: Being the head of our nation's second largest school district is no small feat. What do you see as the biggest challenges and what are some ways City Year is helping to address those?
MK: Our students represent more national origins, speak a wider variety of different languages, and face a more complex set of challenges than ever before. While I often say that diversity is our strength, it is important to remember that the great diversity within our student populations means there are many unique challenges that they face. We have many students who come from communities of high poverty and therefore may not have access to the same resources as students in more affluent communities.
Community-based organizations like City Year add tremendous value to our work because they know the communities they serve well, the struggles students and families face and have tried and true methods of helping every student reach his or her potential. The work provided by City Year really buttresses our efforts to create a solid foundation on which every student is ready to learn and succeed, regardless of where they’ve been in life or the challenges they’ve faced.
CY: At City Year, we are fueled by idealism and the desire to help contribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's vision of the Beloved Community. What is your own vision for LAUSD and our students?
MK: My vision is a district that gets every single student to graduation having successfully completed the course requirements needed to be college prepared and career ready. I aim to move closer to that vision rapidly through these key strategies:
1. Creating a solid foundation for our early learners before they start kindergarten
2. Increasing attendance
3. Effectively engaging our communities
4. Promoting school safety
5. Proficiency for all
King speaks at City Year L.A.'s 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
City Year AmeriCorps members and staff join actress Issa Rae in Black Women's Day reception ceremony, hosted by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson at L.A. City Hall.