Women’s History Month – Floretta Dukes McKenzie, Ed.D
Floretta Dukes McKenzie, Ed.D
UDC Alum – Superintendent of DC Public Schools
A legendary educator, Dr. Floretta Dukes McKenzie has a distinguished record of more than 40 years of service to education as both a school administrator and educational consultant.
Born in Lakeland, Fla. in 1935, her family moved to Washington, DC. She was a 1952 graduate of Dunbar High School, where she won a music prize for playing the cello, and was a 1956 graduate of D.C. Teachers College. She received a master’s degree in education at Howard University in 1957 and a doctorate in education from George Washington University in 1985.
Dr. McKenzie rose through the Washington, D.C., school system and became deputy superintendent in 1973. In 1974, she returned to Maryland and was hired as area assistant superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools. She worked for the U.S. Department of Education as a deputy assistant secretary in the Office of School Improvement, managing 15 federal education discretionary programs and initiatives. She also served as the U.S. delegate to the UNESCO General Conference in Yugoslavia.
In 1981, McKenzie returned to D.C. Public Schools as the superintendent of schools and chief state school officer. In this capacity, she oversaw the country’s 21st-largest school system, managing 89,000 students, 13,000 employees and a $400 million budget.
As superintendent, Dr. McKenzie continued or expanded many curriculum reforms initiated by her predecessor, Vincent E. Reed. In particular, she emphasized a return to “competency-based curriculum,” in which students were required to master certain basic skills to advance to the next class.
She was credited with spurring what The Washington Post described as an “upturn in elementary school achievement.” Banneker High School, the city’s magnet school for high academic achievers, had its first graduating class during her watch.
Dr. McKenzie began a major summer school effort to remedy the common practice of social promotion, or advancing students to the next grade regardless of their proficiency. She was credited with forging important alliances with local companies, foundations and trade associations to help improve instructional programs, personnel training and school-system management.
She resigned in 1988, and started The McKenzie Group, an education-consulting firm that focused on urban schools until her retirement.
Active in the community, in 1992, Dr. McKenzie reportedly became the first African-American elected board member of the Marriott Corp. and the first woman on the board who is not a member of the founding Marriott family.
Her other board memberships included the Potomac Electric Power Co. and Acacia Mutual Life Insurance, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield; National Geographic Society Education Foundation; and the White House Historical Association.
Dr. McKenzie served on the Board of Trustees at Howard University for 21 years. McKenzie died at the age of 79 on March 23, 2015.
To learn more about Dr. Floretta Dukes McKenzie, read: http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/floretta-dukes-mckenzie-39