LOS ANGELES — All flags at Los Angeles Unified School District properties were flown at half-staff until Feb. 6 in honor of former Superintendent Michelle King, who died of cancer Feb. 2 at the age of 57.
“Dr. King was a Los Angeles Unified student who found her passion in education and dedicated her life to making sure others received a great education,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement released Feb. 4. “We at Los Angeles Unified, and all in our community, are grateful for her leadership and commitment. And on behalf of the many, many students, teachers, and administrators whose lives she helped make better, thank you.”
King, who began her education career as a teacher’s aide, ascended to the top spot at the LAUSD in January 2016, becoming the first African-American woman to lead the nation’s second-largest school district. She went on medical leave in September of the following year, then announced in January 2018 that she was battling cancer and would not be returning to her job.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised King’s contribution to local education.
“Dr. Michelle King’s life and career encapsulated what it means to be an Angeleno: excellence, kindness, integrity, service above self,” Garcetti tweeted. “She devoted her entire professional life to students in Los Angeles, and led our school district with all of the passion, skill and determination that it takes to be a powerful fighter for young people and their dreams. Michelle’s extraordinary achievements — record graduation rates, putting higher education within reach for all families, and creating new opportunities for our kids to be on pathways to careers — should inspire each one of us to be part of the mission to make L.A.’s schools the best in America. Amy and I are deeply saddened by her passing, and send our love and prayers to Michelle’s daughters, her parents and brother, and the entire LAUSD family.”
United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents more than 35,000 teachers and health and human services professionals who work in the LAUSD and at charter schools, issued a statement calling King’s death “a terrible loss — for her family, for her community, and for the Los Angeles Unified School District.”
“King made education her life’s work, and she was devoted to upholding a public school system that serves all students,” the UTLA statement said. “As the first African-American woman to be LAUSD superintendent, she blazed a trail for our future. Our condolences to her family and to those whose lives she touched during her long career.”
The LAUSD Board of Education issued a joint statement over the weekend thanking King “for 33 years as an exemplary educator, inspirational role model and steadfast leader.”
King, who held a doctorate from the USC Rossier School of Education, got her undergraduate degree in biology from UCLA and a master’s degree in administration from Pepperdine University. The mother of three daughters was educated in LAUSD schools, attending Century Park and Windsor Hills elementary schools, Palms Junior High and Palisades High School.