The GSEP Superintendent Advisory Council is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. George J. McKenna III, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Local District 7 as the recipient of the 2012 Superintendent of the Year award. Dr. McKenna was honored on Thursday, January 26, 2012, at Tarpy’s Roadhouse in Monterey, California.
Dr. George J. McKenna III began his career as an LAUSD math teacher and navigated his way to an appointment as principal of Washington Prepatory High School in south Los Angeles. In a matter of four years, he successfully changed an inner-city high school that had been torn by violence, low achievement, and lack of community confidence into a school with an attendance waiting list, and nearly 80 percent of the graduates enrolled in college. He left LAUSD to lend his expertise to several districts. He served as superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District in Inglewood, California; deputy superintendent in Compton, California; local district superintendent in LAUSD; and assistant superintendent of secondary schools in Pasadena, California. In 2009 he returned to Los Angeles Unified as Local District 7 superintendent serving nearly 65,000 students in over 70 Title I-eligible schools in central Los Angeles. During his tenure, he was able to accomplish double-digit API test score growth in 75 percent of the schools with one achieving 900 and several exceeding 800, despite successive and severe annual budget and personnel reductions, increases in class size, and loss of professional development resources. Because of these accomplishments, Dr. McKenna is the subject of the award-winning CBS television movie entitled, The George McKenna Story starring Denzel Washington.
GSEP is also pleased to recognize two Superintendents of Distinction for their outstanding service in school leadership. Dr. Larry L. Powell, Fresno County superintendent of schools, and Dr. Susan C. Parks, retired superintendent of San Gabriel Unified School District, were honored at the January 26 dinner and reception.
Referred to as “Reverend” by his colleagues, Dr. Larry L. Powell is distinguished by his well-rounded background. He is a minister, singer, golfer, gymnast, and motivational speaker delivering over 2,700 speeches throughout California. Powell also serves on 12 nonprofit boards and as a member of the board of trustees for Fresno Pacific University where he also taught as a member of the adjunct graduate faculty. He is on numerous advisory boards for California State University, Fresno. He is currently the chair of California’s Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). Powell made headlines last year when he forfeited $800,000 of his salary over three years to help his struggling district.
Upon graduating from USC, Dr. Susan C. Parks began her teaching career at LAUSD. She saw how important quality leadership was for the success of schools, teachers, students, and families, and set her goal to become a principal and eventually superintendent. Her first step towards realizing this dream was her appointment as principal of Walnut Grove Elementary School. Parks became K-12 curriculum director, elementary education director, assistant superintendent for educational services and personnel services, and deputy superintendent in Simi Valley, California. In 1997, she became superintendent of the Baldwin Park Unified School District where she established the “I’m Going to College” program. When she retired in 2002, she took on the responsibility of program director for Pepperdine University’s new Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy (ELAP) doctoral program, which was for her a valuable time of learning as well as teaching. In 2006, Parks gave up her retirement to become interim superintendent of the San Gabriel Unified School District. After over four years of service, she retired in December of 2011.
Past recipients of the Superintendent of the Year Award include:
- Mrs. Cynthia Cervantes McGuire, superintendent of Azusa Unified School District
- Dr. Gwen Gross, formerly with the Hermosa Unified School District
- Dr. Robert Fraisse, formerly with the Conejo Valley Unified School District
- Dr. Joseph Condon, formerly with the Lawndale Elementary School District
- Dr. Jody Dunlap, formerly with the Oxnard Union High School District
- Dr. Sharon McClain, formerly with the Del Mar Union School District
- Dr. Trudy Arriaga, from the Ventura Unified School District
Past recipients of the Superintendents of Distinction Award include:
- Ms. Judy Burton, president and CEO of Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools
- Mr. William Habermehl, Orange County superintendent of schools
- Dr. Johanna Vandermolen, formerly with the Campbell Unified School District
- Dr. Jeffrey Felix, from the Coronado Unified School District