Dr. George J. McKenna III, is Vice President of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, representing District 1. He was first elected to the board in a special election on August 12, 2014, to serve the remainder of an unexpired term caused by the death of former Board Member Marguerite P. LaMotte. Dr. McKenna ran unopposed and won re-election in the primary election on March 3, 2015. His term runs until June 2020.
McKenna grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. He began teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1962. He later became principal of the George Washington Preparatory High School in 1979. At the time McKenna took the position, the school was failing and had problems with gang violence, drug dealing and gun fights, but under his reforms, the school eventually became an institution with an attendance waiting list and with nearly 80 percent of its students going on to college. His reforms at George Washington Preparatory High School were copied across the country. A story of McKenna's turnaround of Washington Prep was made into a movie called The George McKenna Story, which starred Denzel Washington playing the role of George McKenna.
He has received over 400 citations and awards in recognition for his work. He earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Xavier University, his master's degree in mathematics from Loyola University and his doctoral degree in education from Xavier University. He received the Congressional Black Caucus’ Chairman’s Award in 1989, and he was elected to the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ Hall of Fame in 1997.
In addition to teaching and working as a school principal, McKenna worked as an engineer for North American Aviation on the Apollo Moon Shot Project. He has also served as superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District, deputy superintendent of the Compton Unified School District and assistant superintendent of secondary schools for the Pasadena Unified School District.