New Glendale Unified Supt. Vivian Ekchian did not hesitate when asked what stood out after a day’s worth of touring and interacting with some of the 3,520 employees and 26,000 students who make up the school district she now oversees.
“Diversity,” said Ekchian, who visited several Glendale Unified facilities on her first day, Monday, before adding a few sites on Tuesday.
“When we talk about diversity really being the strength of Glendale Unified, you see it in action, you see it in programs, [and] you see it in student interest. It’s an amazing experience, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it,” she said.
Ekchian visited the local sites with Kelly King, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services, and Kristine Nam, Glendale Unified’s communications director. The locations visited included Columbus, Keppel and Mountain Avenue elementary schools, Rosemont and Toll middle schools and Hoover High School on Monday.
The trio also visited the district’s business services office, early-education and extended-learning program office and finally circled back to district headquarters to meet with local media.
Ekchian, a 34-year veteran and one-time interim superintendent with Los Angeles Unified, the country’s second-largest school district, is herself a representation of diversity as she became the district’s first female and first Armenian American superintendent in its over 100-year history.
The Glendale resident said she was more interested in speaking about and witnessing the variety of the district’s programs.
She and the district’s traveling entourage were serenaded by kindergartners in Keppel’s Foreign Language Academy of Glendale, or FLAG, who sang the wildly popular “Baby Shark Dance” song in Korean.
From there, the new superintendent took a tour of Toll Middle School, facilitated by Thomas Crowther, the school’s principal, who guided Ekchian through its halls and toward the lunch area.
Ekchian then slipped behind the lunch counter and into the kitchen, where she greeted a small but quick-moving staff handing out lunches of sandwiches or hamburgers, along with chips, apples, milk and other drinks.
“My main goal was to make sure that she got into the trenches and into the kitchen space to meet the people that are working to feed our kids each day, that was one goal,” Crowther said. “I just wanted her to get a glimpse of Toll.”
Maybe the signature moment of the Toll tour came after, when seventh-graders Aaron Pittman and Henry Moughalian played the piano for Ekchian, though they did not know exactly who she was.
“I think she’s an inspector,” Moughalian said. “I really don’t know who she is, but I just wanted to play.”
The visit also caught Toll special-education instructor Sharon McMillon, who spoke with Ekchian for a few minutes, off-guard.
“I didn’t know she was coming — I had no idea,” McMillon said through a sheepish laugh. “I’m just happy to be here today, and it was nice to get to know her.”
Across the street at Hoover High, Ekchian sat in on a ninth-grade summer health class and teacher William LeClear’s integrated math class.
“I’m happy she’s here,” LeClear said. “All administrators and district staff are always welcome into my classroom to see what is going on. I’m just delighted she chose my class.”
Ekchian also visited the school’s gallery, which still had a few remaining art pieces uncollected by graduated seniors at the end of the school year.
“I love art because it gives students a chance to express themselves without words,” Ekchian said.
Assistant principals David Keys and Mary Mardirosian led the Hoover tour, while school senior administrative secretary Stacy Toy, who is also the president of the Glendale California School Employees Assn., was also on hand.
“We were very excited she was coming and very proud to show her Hoover,” Mardirosian said.
She added, “Vivian seems amazing, and I’m a proud product of Glendale schools. I am excited with everything that is happening, and I’m proud to be part of this community.”