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Dr. Floretta McKenzie was a respected D.C. school superintendent. (AFRO File Photo)

Dr. Floretta D. McKenzie, one of the District’s most respected school superintendents, died on March 23 at the age of 79 in Silver Spring., Md., according to published reports. McKenzie led the District’s school system from 1981-1988. She is credited with raising academic standards for students by requiring them to meet certain educational criteria before going to the next grade. She also initiated public-private partnerships with businesses of various types and corporations to help schools by providing financial and professional resources to mentor students and to provide needed equipment.

She played a major role in the development of Benjamin Banneker Senior High School, the city’s institution for academically-gifted students.

A native of Lakeland, Fla., McKenzie graduated from Dunbar Senior High School in 1952, got her bachelor’s degree from D.C. Teachers College in 1956, a master’s in education from Howard University in 1957 and a doctorate in education from George Washington University in 1985. McKenzie taught school in Baltimore and in the District, worked in different capacities for the Montgomery County, Md., school system, and did stints at the U.S. Department of Education and the Ford Foundation.

In 1988, McKenzie started her own business, The McKenzie Group, an educational consulting firm. The McKenzie Group was later bought out by the American Institutes of Research.

McKenzie is considered a pioneer in the corporate world. At a time when the Black female presence on corporate boards was rare, she became the first elected Black board member of the Marriott Corporation and the first woman non-family member to serve as a director in 1992. She would also serve on the boards of PEPCO, the D.C. area’s power company, and Acacia Mutual Insurance.

McKenzie was a member of the Howard University Board of Trustees from 1993-2014, serving as the chairwoman for two years and vice chairwoman for 10 years.

McKenzie was also a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.