LOS ANGELES (March 13, 2018) - The L.A. Unified Board of Education voted unanimously today to rename the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) to the Girls Academic Leadership Academy, Dr. Michelle King School for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
A longtime proponent of encouraging young women to pursue careers in fields traditionally dominated by men, Dr. King was instrumental in founding the school.
“Dr. King – my friend and mentor – has been our school’s greatest champion since the beginning,” said Elizabeth Hicks, the school’s founding principal. “She has inspired countless women over the years to dream big and become anything they could imagine. The success we’ve seen early on could not have happened without her inspiration, encouragement and bold leadership.”
Hicks announced the proposed name change at a breakfast sponsored by Friends of GALA, a booster organization of parents and other supporters focused on raising funds and generating support for the school. The decision was informed, in part, by a vote among the school’s 300 students and the school’s faculty, parents and community, who expressed overwhelming approval of naming their school after Dr. King.
“Michelle King was the one who supported us all the way from the very beginning,” said seventh-grader Leila Shiva. “We want to honor her for what she did for this school and what she is doing for girls all over Los Angeles.”
Dr. King issued a statement of acceptance.
“I am so humbled and grateful for this tremendous honor,” she said. “I want to thank Principal Hicks for her incredible dedication and tireless hard work to bring this school to life. I am also grateful to our board members and to the entire community for believing in our students. Most importantly, I am so proud of our GALA students! I look forward to hearing about their many successes as they reach for their dreams and become the strong leaders of tomorrow.”
Accepting the honor on Dr. King’s behalf were her three daughters, Ashley, Brittney and Colleen.
“We are just amazed at this school and what it’s already been able to do in its first two years,” Brittney said. “My mother believed in the vision for this school. She has always believed — and still believes — that every young woman can be and do absolutely anything she wants in her life.”
Since opening its doors in 2016, the school has gained widespread praise from District leaders.
“Dr. King inspired me just as she did so many women for so many years,” Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said. “The Girls Academic Leadership Academy, Dr. Michelle King School for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is a testament to her belief that women can do anything when you empower them, when you support them and you believe in them. I cannot think of a better way to recognize her years of work and dedication than to name this amazing school in her honor.”
Board President Mónica García said the school’s renaming sends a powerful message to students from all walks of life.
“How awesome it is to be making history today,” she said. “We are naming this school for someone who is a superintendent, a leader, an employee of L.A. Unified, a mother of L.A. Unified and a proud graduate of L.A. Unified. I want all the girls and boys of this District to see that we name schools for people who are just like you. We name schools for people who love and lead despite all obstacles. This is the world of Michelle King. I am honored to pass a vote of approval from this call from the community.”
Board Vice President Nick Melvoin added, “It is a fitting tribute to add the name of an inspiring female leader like Dr. King to the Girls Academic Leadership Academy. I am glad that we are honoring her lasting contributions to our district’s future.”
Dr. George J. McKenna III, whose District includes the Girls Academy, mentioned the importance of linking young women to careers in STEM.
“I remember in my many years as a learner and teacher of math, the ones who were always the smartest in the room were the women,” he said. “Dr. King is someone who embodied that. I am proud to call her my colleague and my friend and even more proud of this school that she helped build, which will now bear her name.”
“I am honored to have had the privilege of working alongside Dr. King for many years as a fellow administrator,” said Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson. “She is someone who is not only incredibly smart but so full of grace, approachable, common sense-minded and an all-around beautiful person.”
“Dr. King has spent her entire career focused on student achievement and the success of this District,” Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez said. “Her legacy is manifested in this District's everyday work. For this reason, it is fitting that she should get the kind of commemoration that renaming a high-quality school in her honor bestows.”
Board Member Kelly Gonez echoed others stating, “It is fitting that we honor Dr. King, whose leadership has inspired so many, through the naming of GALA. The school is a testament to Dr. King’s legacy of innovative and collaborative leadership to provide the best educational experience for all L.A. Unified students.”
“Dr. King’s goal was to make Los Angeles a better place, and she spent over 30 years making that happen,” said Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic. “Her legacy of innovation and a consistent belief that no child should ever be denied an opportunity to be successful is what made things like GALA possible. And, the future will prove that the groundwork she laid will have a lasting impact for many years to come.”
Contact: Shannon Haber (213) 241-6766