All flags at city and Los Angeles Unified School District properties were being flown at half-staff Monday in honor of former Superintendent Michelle King, who died of cancer Saturday 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 Monday morning, in which he said district flags would remain at half-staff until Wednesday.
“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,” Beutner said.
A statement issued by the LAUSD Board of Education in announcing King’s death noted her “33 years as an exemplary educator, inspirational role model and steadfast leader.”
Garcetti said King’s “life and career encapsulated what it means to be an Angeleno: excellence, kindness, integrity, service above self.”
“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,” the mayor said. “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.”
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.
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 says. “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.”
King, who held a doctorate from the USC Rossier School of Education, earned an 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.