When Michelle King was named superintendent in January, she became the seventh person appointed to the position in the last 20 years—an unsurprising turnover rate given the complex issues facing the nation’s second-largest school district. (Consider that about 80 percent of LAUSD students live in poverty, the state is 35th in the country in per-pupil funding, and charter schools are dividing parents and educators.) After attending public schools in L.A., King spent the next 38 years working her way through the district’s ranks. We asked experts familiar with the LAUSD’s challenges: What advice would you give King?
“Years ago the LAUSD had a robust department that examined its curriculum, programs, and policies. While the decisions the LAUSD takes up are almost always political, the inclusion of evaluation data in decision making can help refute the ideologies and rhetoric that often drive discussions.” —Christina Christie, head of UCLA’s Social Research Methodology Division in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
“I hope Superintendent King will rethink the relationship between teachers and the district, and that the LAUSD will begin to create hybrid roles for highly effective educators and leverage the tremendous talent we have in the district.” —Daniel Jocz, teacher at Downtown Magnets High School; National Teacher of the Year final four candidate
“The charter school issue is an enrollment issue. L.A. Unified magnet schools score higher than the charters, but the district hasn’t trumpeted that enough or replicated that enough. The LAUSD should discuss how good its teacher and educator workforce is. King is an embodiment of L.A. Unified’s opportunities, so she can speak to the opportunities that exist if parents and others advocate.” —David Tokofsky, former teacher and school board member
“Superintendent King oversaw the most major overhaul of school discipline in the district’s history, disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. We hope that she will apply the same leadership to disrupting the exclusion of economically marginalized African American and Latino families from being part of the solution.” —Maisie Chin, cofounder and executive director of CADRE, a grassroots parent membership organization in South L.A.
“My wish is that King builds a forward-thinking agenda prioritizing the needs of black, brown, and poor children. We need a leader who is collaborative, so it’s important that she begin a listening tour early because the LAUSD is very diverse and very big.” —Ryan Smith, executive director of the advocacy organization Education Trust-West