LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Unified School District will launch a search for a new district executive after receiving news last week that Superintendent Michelle King, who has been on medical leave since September, will retire by June 30 without returning to her job.
King, who has been superintendent since January 2016, revealed Jan. 6 that she is being treated for cancer.
“I have been undergoing treatment for cancer,” King said. “Now, with the progression of my illness, I have made the incredibly difficult decision to retire by June 30. Until then, I will remain on medical leave.”
King did not specify the type of cancer for which she is being treated.
“I am very thankful for the outpouring of support I have received from the entire L.A. Unified family, our community partners and my colleagues across the nation. As I aggressively fight this illness, I ask that you continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers.”
Vivian Eckchian, who has been acting superintendent during King’s medical leave, was elevated to interim superintendent by the school board Jan. 9 and will remain in that position while the search for a superintendent is conducted, according to district officials.
King, the first black woman hired as superintendent for the nation’s second-largest school district, went on medical leave last September, but the nature of her illness had never been disclosed.
Members of the district’s Board of Education issued a joint statement thanking King “for 33 years as an exemplary educator, inspirational role model and steadfast leader.”
“Having dedicated her career to the district, it is now time for Dr. King to focus her incredible strength and energy on her health,” the board statement said. “We wholeheartedly support her decision to retire, and will continue to keep her in our thoughts and prayers as she faces the challenges ahead.”
King earned a doctorate last May from the USC Rossier School of Education. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from UCLA and a master’s degree in administration from Pepperdine University. She was educated in LAUSD schools, attending Century Park and Windsor Hills elementary schools, Palms Junior High School and Palisades High School.
“I am honored to be a graduate of L.A. Unified and to have served this amazing district for the last 33 years,” King said. “With the collaboration of our students, parents, employees, board members and community partners, our district will continue to close the opportunity and achievement gaps and provide a high-quality education for our future leaders.”
King was appointed superintendent in January 2016, replacing Ramon Cortines, who retired. She was a unanimous selection by the school board.
Then school board President Steve Zimmer called her appointment “a historic moment.”
“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 the most,” Zimmer said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement praising King for her years of dedicated service to the district.
“Michelle King has devoted her entire professional life to Los Angeles’ young people — and her time as superintendent has brought phenomenal progress to students across our city,” Garcetti said. “It has been my privilege to work closely with her on making community college tuition-free for every district graduate, expanding after-school programs, making more campuses available for recreation and creating new opportunities for students to get the work experience they need to build a more prosperous future for their families and communities.
“She is a close friend, and I send her love, prayers, and gratitude for extraordinary dedication and leadership,” Garcetti added.
Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher, a district teacher for 15 years, currently at Dodson Middle School, praised King for being engaged as the superintendent.
“I remember Dr. King engaging with teachers at a National Board Conference on a Saturday morning with my colleagues,” Marquez-Prueher said in a statement issued by the Los Angeles chapter of Educators for Excellence. “I will never forget what it meant to know my superintendent wanted to listen and learn with teachers.
“I’ve been going to the conference for years and I don’t recall ever seeing a superintendent at our Saturday conference. She was always interested in rallying the community on behalf of our schools.”