Angelenos welcome their new schools superintendent -- with some reservations

Angelenos welcome their new schools superintendent -- with some reservations
Michelle King, left, is introduced as the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District on Jan. 11, backed by board member Ref Rodriguez, center, and King's daughter Brittney King. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

We asked Angelenos what they thought of the choice of Michelle King as the new superintendent for Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second largest school district. Readers responded favorably to her deep connection to the district; King, 54, was educated in local schools, has spent her entire career with L.A. Unified starting in 1978 and sent her children to local schools. Others, though, warned she may be so entrenched in the bureaucracy that she will not be able to effect change.

Understanding young people of color dealing with extreme poverty

My opinion of Michelle King is largely positive, and I am happy that she was chosen. Based on the problems LAUSD had attracting viable candidates from outside. For example, I read in the L.A. Times that a candidate with experience in Montgomery County, Md., had withdrawn his name saying that LAUSD was something along the lines of a complete mess. I grew up in Montgomery County, and know that it serves a very affluent student body, whose children overwhelmingly come from stable, two-parent households and who are mostly white.

I doubt that such a candidate could adequately lead LAUSD, whose students are mostly young people of color many of whom are dealing with severe poverty.

Ms. King, as someone who came up in the District, knows our student body well and is, in my opinion, much better able to take over the reins without a "break in" period that would be required by an outsider. While I have not worked directly with or under Ms. King, I believe she has had a good deal of influence on my school, Audubon Middle School, in the Leimert Park area of South Los Angeles. Our student body is approximately 65% African American and 35% Latino, and we have been told we have the highest percentage of students in foster care of any school in our area.

— Joel Parkes, teacher, Audubon Middle School

Guts and courage to take a thankless job

She's a long-term, "up from the ranks" kind of woman who is homegrown. That may be a plus but it might also be a negative as she may not "see the forest for the trees" as opposed to being the "new broom that sweeps best."

LAUSD's bureaucracy is notoriously wasteful and inefficient; not maliciously so, but it grew organically like kudzu. Or Jabba the Hutt. She is going to have to prove to a skeptical public that she can deliver results...

I commend Ms. King for having the guts and the courage to take on a thankless, though crucial task, and I will do my best to support her.

— Kevin Glynn, teacher, Los Angeles High School, UTLA chapter chair

'Our kids have suffered enough'

I have a few concerns, one being she has been there with the previous administrations and doesn’t have any new ideas. And why wasn’t she considered before the others dropped out?

I want to be optimistic, however, only her actions will tell if she can move the schools forward in a positive way and really bring change that is much needed! Our kids have suffered enough.

— Lisa Haden, parent, Franklin Elementary School

Can she commit?

My question is whether or not she's willing to commit to stay at LAUSD for at least five years?

The quick turnover of superintendents means that no one's vision or plan can actually come to fruition.By the time all the administrators and teachers are getting used to the 'new regime,' the superintendent resigns and is replaced. I'm just a concerned citizen. I spent time in foster care as a child, but now I'm an attorney. There is no way a success story like mine can happen without a good education."

— Edward Coe

An excellent assistant principal

I went to high school at Hamilton from 2000-2004. While I don't remember any specific examples of Mrs. King, she always was very hands-on in going to classrooms and engaging the students.

She genuinely did work with the community and the student body to ensure that their voices were heard and issues were addressed. I think one specific example that vaguely comes to mind was she was a staunch supporter of keeping the enhanced school structure we had with the two magnets (Humanities and Performing Arts) and the other subject oriented/trade segments of school. I was in the Academy of Music Magnet, and I know she fought hard to keep funding for our program.

— Justin Noah, Hamilton High School graduate

Of the community, for the community?

I think it is an enlightened choice. Since she is from the community hopefully she will be in touch with what is needed for both students and teachers to be successful.

— Jason Marland, teacher, Foshay Learning Center

Asking the right questions

I've seen posts and comments in social media about Ms. King's being closely associated with disgraced former Supt. John Deasy. But I have to acknowledge that she has risen through the ranks of LAUSD and, more importantly, had her kids educated by LAUSD. That gives Ms. King a perspective that differs from previous superintendents who were hired to guide the second-largest district.

It is my hope, as a teacher who has devoted 28 years to LAUSD (and an additional 5 elsewhere) that the experience with her children will guide her and that, when she reaches those difficult decisions, she will not ask, 'What would John Deasy or Ramon Cortines do?' but instead ask, 'Is this what I'd want for my own kids?'

— Chuck Olynyk, teacher, Roosevelt High School

Trust in someone who knows the system

I look forward to seeing improvements in our school district. If she has worked her way up, then I am able to trust her.

— Chris Guzman, senior, Lincoln High School

What do you think Michelle King can do for your school? Join the conversation @LATeducation.

Some submissions were edited for clarity.

Twitter: @dhgerson