Glendale Unified expected to name Glendale resident as district’s first-ever female superintendent

Glendale Unified's board is expected to vote to hire Glendale resident and L.A. Unified School District Deputy Supt. Vivian Ekchian as its next superintendent.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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Seventeen men have held the position of Glendale Unified School District superintendent, dating back to Richardson D. White in 1913.

An expected decision Tuesday may break that trend because the district’s board is scheduled to vote on hiring Armenian native, Glendale resident and Los Angeles Unified School District Deputy Supt. Vivian Ekchian as the district’s next superintendent during its next regular meeting.

Ekchian would fill a void vacated after the board voted, 3-2, to end the three-year tenure of Winfred B. Roberson Jr., the district’s first African American superintendent, on Jan. 29.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to serve the Glendale Unified School District if the board approves my contract,” said Ekchian, who added she would go more into detail about her plans after Tuesday, if she’s selected.

Ekchian has been years at L.A. Unified since 1985 and spent the last 12 years in a variety of roles, including human resources chief, chief labor negotiator and associate superintendent of support services.

She served as the district’s interim superintendent for three months in 2018 before L.A. Unified hired former Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner as superintendent in May.

Ekchian earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Cal State Northridge, followed by a master’s in educational administration at UCLA and an educational doctorate from USC in leadership in urban settings.

“We had a strong field of highly qualified candidates, and we are confident that Dr. Ekchian is the right person to lead GUSD,” school board president Jennifer Freemon, who voted to keep Roberson, said in a statement. “She is a lifelong educator with extensive experience running a large, diverse district.”

Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill, a former L.A. Unified administrator who worked with Ekchian, said Glendale Unified officials would be making a smart move.

“She’s outstanding,” Hill said. “Vivian is a strong leader who has a heart for kids. She has amazing experience and has done almost every single role at L.A. Unified. That’s a fantastic hire for Glendale.”

If Ekchian is hired, she will take over July 1, while interim Supt. Kelly King would return to her role as assistant superintendent of educational services.

A positive vote would also end a quick search process by the firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, which was contracted on Feb. 19 for $29,650 to find the district’s next superintendent.

Previously, Glendale needed three interim superintendents and eight months before hiring Roberson in February 2016.

Glendale Unified’s next superintendent will inherit many challenges, including declining enrollment, a property transfer deal for the district’s headquarters that appears dead, deficit spending, dwindling reserves, a territory dispute with a La Cañada grassroots organization and the aftermath of a brawl at Hoover High last October.