The Los Angeles Unified School District will lose the stability expected under Superintendent Michelle King as she steps down to battle cancer.

Credited with raising graduation rates to 80% and seen as a consensus builder, the school board had extended her contract to 2020 in June.

Circular windows cover the exterior of the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles on Nov. 12, 2008.
Los Angeles Unified School District's Cortines High for performing arts. The massive district needs a new leader after Superintendent Michelle King resigned following a cancer diagnosis. Bloomberg News

King had been on medical leave since September and announced Friday she will remain on medical leave until June 30 when she will formally retire.

“With the progression of my illness, I have made the incredibly difficult decision to retire by June 30,” King said.

Vivian Ekchian, an administrator who has been acting superintendent since October, will continue in the acting role.

King took over in January 2016 and the tides have turned on the school board that appointed her; pro-charter school advocates won a majority this year 2017. They will influence the choice of the next permanent superintendent.

King’s decision continues what has been a merry-go-round of leadership change.

Five people have served as superintendent over the past 10 years. David Brewer, John Deasy, and Ramon Cortines preceded King and Ekchian.

LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King announced she will retire in June.
Michelle King

The district also has a relatively new chief financial officer.

Scott Price was named to the position this summer replacing Megan Reilly, who left to be Santa Clara Unified School District’s financial chief after 10 years in Los Angeles.

The district has struggled financially in recent years with enrollment declines wrought by competition with charter schools and struggles with pensions and other employee benefit costs.

Facing a deficit projected to grow to $333 million in fiscal 2017-2018, the school district formed a task force in 2015 to provide recommendations. The district used one-time revenues to close the gap in this year's budget, according to its fiscal 2017-18 budget.

King, a LAUSD alumna, rose through the ranks starting out as a middle school science teacher in 1984, then assistant principal, and principal before moving to district offices to work as an assistant superintendent under two predecessors.

“Michelle King has devoted her entire professional life to Los Angeles’ young people — and her time as superintendent has brought phenomenal progress to students across our city,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The National Association of School Superintendents named King, who became LAUSD’s chief in January 2016, superintendent of the year.

The board will work every day to honor King’s tireless service to the district’s employees, teachers, students and families, Board Member Nick Melvoin said.

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