Los Angeles Unified School Board members voted Tuesday to add another two years to superintendent Michelle King's contract, extending her agreement to lead the nation's second-largest school district through June 2020.
The extension comes a full year before King's previous contract was set to expire — and less than a month before two L.A. Unified board members are set to turn over their seats to their newly-elected replacements.
King was a teacher, principal and administrator in the district for more than 32 years before becoming L.A. Unified superintendent 17 months ago.
"This last [school] year that just ended has been extraordinary in ways that we expected and ways that we hadn't expected," said board president Steve Zimmer. "This was really about her [the superintendent's] performance and about our relationship."
Zimmer said King's performance was evident in L.A. Unified's "invigorated effort around graduation" and improved academic performance among English learners. He also cited King's presence as a unifying figure to explain why board members felt comfortable approving the extension.
Board members voted on the extension in a closed session and announced their decision Tuesday evening — at the end of a marathon open meeting that stretched past 11 p.m.
The lone vote against extending the contract was board member Mónica García, who said in a statement that she appreciated the King's "leadership, her work, and her commitment to the district" but felt the timing of the extension was inappropriate.
"We will have new board members in three weeks," her statement read, "and it is my view that she is best affirmed by that new board."
When asked about García's dissenting vote, Zimmer said he hadn't seen her statement but he respected the opinions of all his fellow board members.
"There is rock solid support of this superintendent and given that rock solid support, it was not only appropriate but really the right thing for our kids to deliver an endorsement as we're ending this year," said Zimmer, who lost a re-election bid in May.
Zimmer's term — and that of board member Mónica Ratliff — will conclude at the end of the month.
"This is not about the end of a board term," Zimmer insisted. "This is about the end of a school year where the superintendent's accomplishments have really been profound."
For board member George McKenna, the contract extension was about stability, minimizing turnover in the L.A. Unified's superintendent's office and maintaining institutional memory in the district's administrative ranks.
“We need some continuity and I think the superintendent’s doing a good enough job to maintain the continuity," McKenna said, "especially at the executive level.”
Given that King's old contract wouldn't have expired until June 2018, McKenna was asked, why hurry to offer an extension?
"There was no hurry," McKenna replied. "But this is the board that knows her. This is the board that hired her."
King's salary will remain unchanged in the extension: $350,000 per year.