Wave Staff Report
CULVER CITY — Culver City Unified School District Superintendent Leslie Lockhart announced that she will be retiring from the district after 23 years, including the last four as superintendent.
“As many of you know, I have had some recent health challenges and this has been an opportunity for me to reflect on what is truly important in my life,” Lockhart told the school board April 13. “Tonight, it is with mixed emotions that I announce to the board and to the community that I will be retiring as superintendent of CCUSD, effective June 30, 2021.”
Lockhart was named superintendent in January 2018, after serving as interim superintendent for six months. The first African-American to serve the district as superintendent, Lockhart oversaw the district’s increasing dedication to equity, diversion and inclusion — something she said the district continues to prioritize even after she is gone.
“I hope that our district continues to build on, explore, embrace and celebrate our diversity; and continuously work to be a shining example of how people of all races, religions, genders and ethnicities can uplift and celebrate each other,” she said. “I hope that we will seek opportunities to bring people together, make our differences something we acknowledge and honor, and fight racism and inequity at every turn.”
Lockhart said she is proud of the strides the district has taken to focus on the whole child and address students’ mental health as well as their physical and academic health. She called the current leadership team “some of the most dedicated, professional and outstanding leaders I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside” and saluted the district’s teachers and staff for their excellence, especially in the wake of the pandemic that changed everything.
“They adapted. They learned. They innovated,” she said. “In short, our teachers, administrators and staff put children first, and Culver City’s children are better for their efforts. I want to thank them for the sacrifices they made over the past year and for the many, many ways in which they have helped CCUSD move forward.”
Board of Education President Tashon McKeithan thanked Lockhart for her service to the district.
“We appreciate Ms. Lockhart’s leadership throughout the years, and especially over the past year through the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “She has led our district in mitigating risks during this unprecedented time with a focus on the safety, learning and social and emotional needs of our students, families and our community.
“Her departure is bittersweet. While it will be hard to see her go, we are very proud of her accomplishments here in the district and we are eager to see her enjoy the next chapter in her life. Ms. Lockhart has been, and continues to be, our collaborative partner in the governance of the district. We congratulate her as she embarks on this next adventure.”
McKeithan said the district will begin a search for Lockhart’s replacement immediately.
“You can continue to expect transparency and communication in this process, and in turn, we expect your input and advocacy on what is going well with the district and what qualities you would like to see in the next superintendent,” she told the community. “With your help, we will succeed in our goal to find the best possible leader for our district.”
Lockhart, whose children have attended Culver City schools, has been an educator for 32 years and has deep roots in the district. She served as assistant principal at Culver City High School, and principal of El Rincon Elementary School before moving to the district office to be director of categorical programs.
She also served for seven years as assistant superintendent of human resources before being named interim superintendent in June 2017 and ultimately superintendent.
Lockhart earned a master’s degrees in educational administration and business administration from Pepperdine University and a bachelor’s degree from UCLA.
Her list of accomplishments within the district is extensive. As assistant principal of Culver City High School, Lockhart developed, maintained, evaluated, implemented and enhanced extracurricular activities that helped to promote student achievement and general student well-being.
Lockhart also created the Student Inter-Cultural Advisory Committee where students were trained in the anti-hate and anti-bias curriculum.
Under her guidance from 2004 to 2008, academic performance index scores increased from 786 to 835 at El Rincon Elementary School. She piloted the full-day kindergarten program, created fifth-grade exit portfolios presentations, and the fifth-grade ballroom dance program.
Lockhart also piloted the Growing Great Program and created the annual Cultural Faire where all cultures are celebrated and appreciated. Due to her efforts, El Rincon became a Global Science Focus School, where a hands-on science lab serves students with a science staff development center for elementary school teachers districtwide.
She also implemented community and global awareness programs, including a malaria documentary and fundraiser and a fundraiser to help support the victims of Hurricane Katrina. While assistant superintendent, Lockhart created a successful Inspired Living program that promoted physical, fiscal and mental wellness for district staff.
During her tenure as superintendent, Lockhart oversaw the districtwide move to distance learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the recent return of students to campus. In addition, she guided the district— the third most diverse district in the state — as it developed a clear equity and inclusion focus that saw the development of an equity action plan and the start of an inclusion focal point at the district’s elementary schools.