Dr. George J. McKenna III was born and reared in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he distinguished himself as a scholar and athlete and where the seeds of his civil and human rights activism were nurtured. Upon receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics from Xavier University, at the age of 20, he was awarded a teaching fellowship to Loyola University, Chicago, where he earned an M.A. in mathematics. He holds a Doctor of Education Degree from Xavier University.
Dr. McKenna took a position in the Los Angeles Unified School District as a mathematics teacher. He also worked as an engineer for North American Aviation on the Apollo Moon Shot Project. While continuing his education at Loyola University Law School, UCLA, and California State University, Los Angeles, he taught at the secondary school and college levels; and, within a short time, moved through the ranks of secondary school administrative positions.
As the Principal of George Washington Preparatory High School located in South Central Los Angeles, Dr. McKenna developed and implemented the Preparatory School Model, which in four years, 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% of the graduates enrolled in college.
He served as Superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District in California, Deputy Superintendent in Compton, California, Local District Superintendent in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools in Pasadena, California. In September 2009, Dr. McKenna returned to the Los Angeles School District as Local District 7 Superintendent, serving nearly 60,000 students in Central Los Angeles, and was elected in 2014 to the Board of Education.
Dr. McKenna has received international recognition for his work, receiving over 400 citations and awards from a host of civic, legislative and professional organizations, including recognition by President Reagan.
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. He has appeared on “The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather,” “Nightline” with Ted Koppel,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and “Nightwatch.” Dr. McKenna is the subject of the award-winning CBS television movie entitled, “The George McKenna Story” starring Denzel Washington, which was broadcast in 1986 and again in 1989. 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 strong advocate of building stable communities from within, Dr. George McKenna believes that an educational system, which emphasizes justice, equal opportunity and non-violence, is the primary vehicle for positive change in a pluralistic and technological society.