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Superintendent’s address launches LAUSD school year

EAST LOS ANGELES — Superintendent Michelle King kicked off the 2017-18 school year Aug. 8 with her annual State of the District address, outlining a host of record-breaking accomplishments and new initiatives designed to propel the district to its goal of graduating all students at Garfield High School.

In her speech to principals and top administrators of the Los Angeles Unified School District, King built on the theme of her inaugural address last year as she set more ambitious goals for achieving excellence and equity for the district’s 550,000-plus students.

“Today, I not only say that we are a district on the move,” she said. “We are reaching new heights and we will accelerate our pace toward 100 percent graduation.”

King praised the district’s progress in raising proficiency rates among English-learners to record-high levels, as well as reducing student suspensions by 80 percent, bringing them to an all-time low.

“Students have the right to realize their fullest potential,” she said, “and we have a moral obligation to get them there.”

King recited a litany of new programs designed to personalize instruction and engage students from the time they enter school. The overarching goal — which is the foundation of the superintendent’s strategic plan — is to graduate all students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and the workplace.

The initiatives include launching a dual-language immersion pilot in 10 early education programs; adopting early language and literacy programs in 185 additional elementary schools; and expanding dual-enrollment opportunities for middle school students.

The district also is expanding its popular programs geared toward preparing graduates for the jobs of tomorrow. There are new design- and research-themed magnets, and additional Linked Learning pathways that will allow students to earn industry-recognized certificates. In addition, students of color will have greater access to Advanced Placement courses and concurrent enrollment offerings.

“We must nurture our students, who are full of hope, wonder and excitement, about the journey that lies before them,” King said.

As the superintendent celebrated the success of the more than 26,000 students who earned their diplomas in 2017 — an estimated 85 percent of the senior class — she also spoke of the need to “double down on our strategies to ensure that all students are in school every day and receiving quality instruction.”

To help support this work, the district is utilizing several new high-tech “dashboards” that will track student attendance, identify and monitor standard English learners, and aid high school students in developing academic plans supporting their long-term college and career goals.

The district also is launching a first-of-its-kind partnership with UCLA and a local nonprofit that will allow nearly two dozen foster youth to live near campus and receive academic, social and emotional supports as they begin their high school careers at University High.

In another partnership, this one with the city of Los Angeles, the Division of Adult Education will be serving adults seeking to re-enter the workforce.

In addition, adult education will expand its concurrent enrollment opportunities and training for pre-apprenticeships.

To cheers from the audience, King also announced that the district will strengthen its support of newcomers and immigrant families with resources and toolkits, part of the new “We Are One” campaign promoting the spirit and message of inclusion.

“We want to make clear that in L.A. Unified, we stand together as one united family,” she said.

After King’s address, members of the Board of Education shared their own visions for the upcoming school year.

“We are one L.A. Unified,” school board President Ref Rodriguez said. “And together, we will build bridges for generations of students who follow, providing a path to places not yet dreamed of, so that Los Angeles students realize their potential as future leaders, innovators and change makers.”

“We welcome our youngest learners from the class of 2030, our seniors on the final stretch and every family, staff and community member who will help make this year better than ever,” board Vice President Mónica García said.

“We have visionary ‘kids first’ leadership ready to help and to serve. We begin this year reaffirming our mission to serve every child in in Los Angeles on the path toward 100 percent graduation,” she added.

“As this school year begins and the Class of 2030 enters kindergarten, I maintain an unwavering commitment to providing them, and all of our students, with the best academic preparation for college, career and leadership in the ever-changing global economy of the 21st century,” said board member George J. McKenna III, a retired principal who represents Board District 1.

“The annual State of the District event is always a powerful reminder that L.A. Unified’s neighborhood and magnet schools anchor the city of Los Angeles and that we serve and nurture every single child who passes through our school gates,” said board member Scott Schmerelson, a retired principal. “It is always inspiring to come together to celebrate the potential of every student and to recognize and encourage the dedication of every member of the L.A. Unified family.”

“I am eager to work with the superintendent to accelerate the pace toward new heights of college and career readiness and graduation. Our students don’t have time to wait,” said Nick Melvoin, a former L.A. Unified teacher, who joined the board in July. “We must, as Board President Rodriguez said, build bridges across the barriers that face our students, families, teachers, and staff.”

“I share the superintendent’s goal of building on and accelerating the progress that our schools have made in recent years,” said new board member Kelly Gonez, another former teacher who joined the board in July. “It will take all of us working together to ensure every student in Los Angeles is graduating ready for college and careers.”