Los Angeles schools chief Michelle King is recuperating from surgery and has appointed a subordinate to run the school system in her stead.
In an email over the weekend, she told senior staff that Associate Supt. Vivian Ekchian would serve as acting superintendent "for the remainder of my absence."
"I have the utmost confidence in Mrs. Ekchian's leadership and ability to oversee all business matters, and maintain the district's upward trajectory toward 100% graduation," King wrote in the email, which went out at 10:32 a.m. on Saturday.
Ekchian followed up with an internal email confirming that she had agreed to step in.
The district has not discussed King's medical problems, but some insiders said she injured herself in an accident while on vacation with her family. Whatever the details, she was apparently suffering from severe leg pain, which ultimately required surgery, said district sources, who could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
King, 56, had begun using a cane at work and then simply stayed at home, directing the district via phone and email. She hasn't attended a board meeting since Sept. 12, the district confirmed Monday. Her last day in the office was Sept. 15. When contacted last week, a district spokeswoman downplayed the effect of the medical issue.
"Dr. King will be back in the office on Monday," said spokeswoman Shannon Haber. "She has been in constant contact — and fully involved on all district matters — with staff and board members during her brief time away from the office."
But by the weekend, King's return date had been set back.
"Unexpectedly, my doctor informed me that I am not yet released to return to work, due to my continued need to recover from my medical procedure," King wrote to her senior staff. "The doctor will reassess my progress at the end of this month."
King, who attended L.A. Unified schools, became superintendent of the nation's second-largest school system in January 2016. She had worked for the district for three decades, starting as a teacher and steadily rising through the ranks. She is the first African American woman to hold the superintendent's job.
Ekchian, too, has risen through district ranks, from her job as an elementary school teacher in 1985. She has served as a principal, as a director of instruction, as head of human resources, as chief labor negotiator and as a regional superintendent in the west San Fernando Valley.
5:45 p.m: This article has been updated with additional details about King's absence, including how long she has been out of the office.