The Glendale Unified School District Board of Education unanimously voted to confirm Darneika Watson as the next superintendent of schools during its Oct. 10 meeting.
“I am humbled, overwhelmed and thankful to the Board of Education for the opportunity to serve this amazing district,” Watson said. “I look forward to continuing the transformative work of my predecessor and mentor Dr. Vivian Ekchian, in collaboration with our students, families, educators, support staff and community members.
“Student safety, including the mental and physical wellbeing of every child in our district, is my number one priority.”
Watson has served as the district’s interim superintendent since the previous superintendent, Ekchian, retired at the end of June. She has been the district’s chief human resources and operations officer since 2020.
Board Clerk Ingrid Gunnell commended the work Watson has done as interim superintendent, noting Watson has been navigating challenging times in the district with “dignity and grace.”
“I am beyond excited that we have selected you, Dr. Watson, to serve our students and our community and our families,” Ingrid said during the Board meeting. “I have to say it’s a very big honor of mine to be here on the night where we vote to have our first Black woman superintendent in the city of Glendale. And for those who know the history of Glendale, this is no small feat.”
As an academic and operational leader, Watson has served students, educators and families across Los Angeles for more than 30 years. She spent 26 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District as a bilingual teacher and coordinator, school administrator and executive director of district operations. Prior to coming to GUSD, Watson worked at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, providing operational support to the Inglewood Unified School District.
Board member Kathleen Cross expressed her support for Watson, adding that her ability to inspire is one of many qualities that makes Watson an effective leader.
“You make the people you come across believe in themselves and want to do more than they thought they ever could. I’ve seen this in the students you light up and I’ve seen this in the way your team functions,” Cross said. “I know that Glendale’s future is brighter because you are a part of it.”
During the meeting, Watson made her new role official by signing an employment contract which included a $310,000 annual base salary. The contract lasts through June 2027.
“Dr. Watson is an exceptional educational leader who is committed to building positive relationships with our students, educators, staff, families and community,” said Board President Jennifer Freemon in a statement. “She shares our Board of Education’s priorities to maximize achievement for all students, foster a positive culture of learning on every campus, and protect the health and safety of students and employees. Her steadfast leadership as interim superintendent over the past few months has proven that Dr. Watson is the right person to lead GUSD.”
First published in the October 14 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.