Dr. George McKenna III
Board District 1
During Dr. George McKenna’s tenure as principal of Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles, students, parents, and community members witnessed firsthand the transformation of 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% of the graduates enrolled in college.
Because of his success, Dr. McKenna’s programs have been widely modeled throughout the nation. In addition, his story of advocacy, commitment, and dedication to education has been documented in the award-winning CBS television movie entitled, “The George McKenna Story” starring Denzel Washington. His accomplishments have been featured in a wide variety of media, including Time, People, and Ebony magazines, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Detroit News. Dr. McKenna has appeared on “The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather,” “Nightline” with Ted Koppel, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Nightwatch,” and in the documentary film entitled “Chaos to Calm” produced by the California State Attorney General’s Office.
Dr. McKenna has received international recognition for his work having received over 400 citations and awards from a host of civic, legislative and professional organizations. He was also recognized by President Reagan, who invited him to the White House to participate in a panel on school discipline. The President further acknowledged Dr. McKenna’s leadership at the 68th Annual National Convention of Secondary School Principals, where the President praised him as a “hero with faith in common-sense values.” Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis mentioned Dr. McKenna’s achievements during his presidential nomination speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Featured in the 1988 Miller Brewing Company Calendar of Great Black Educators, Dr. McKenna was the 1989 recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Chairman’s Award and was inducted into the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ Hall of Fame in 1997. He is the author of California legislation, which permits parent release time from work to visit schools.
A scholar and athlete, at a young age McKenna’s passion for civil and human rights activism was nurtured in his hometown of New Orleans. He attended Xavier University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the age of 20. He earned a teaching fellowship to Chicago’s Loyola University, where he went on to earn a M.A. in mathematics. He holds a Doctorate of Education from Xavier University.
Dr. McKenna began his career in education when he accepted a position in the Los Angeles Unified School District as a mathematics teacher. Simultaneously, he also worked as an engineer for North American Aviation on the Apollo Moon Shot Project, but ultimately his love of teaching led him to completely devote himself to the field of education.
While continuing his own education at Loyola University Law School, UCLA, and California State University, Los Angeles, he continued to teach at the secondary school and college levels within the LAUSD moving up the ranks of secondary school administrative positions.
In addition to his well-documented teaching and administrative career in the LAUSD, McKenna served as Superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District, Deputy Superintendent of the Compton Unified School District, and Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools in the Pasadena Unified School District. He currently serves as an educational consultant providing professional development and support to school districts and community organizations throughout the country.
A strong advocate of building stable communities from within, Dr. George McKenna believes that an educational system that emphasizes justice, equal opportunity, and non-violence, is the primary vehicle for positive change in a pluralistic and technological society.