Remembering Jeannine King

By Melissa Katz, Vice President of Inclusive Education

Jeannine King
Jeannine King

It is with heartbreaking sadness that I share the news of Jeannine King’s passing. Many of you reading this met Jeannine through her work with the Collaborative, but may have already been familiar with her through her special education and leadership roles at Bronx Community Charter School, where she worked for 13 years prior to joining the Collaborative this school year.

I first met Jeannine almost nine years ago when I joined the Charter Center as the founding MLL/ELL Specialist. It was clear to me from our earliest interactions that she was a high-capacity educator who was deeply committed to ensuring students received all the supports they needed and deserved. Over the years, I interacted with her at many Collaborative workshops and conferences, where she not only engaged thoughtfully in her own learning, but also generously shared her own knowledge and experiences with her peers to further their professional development.

When Jeannine joined the Collaborative as an Inclusive Education Specialist this year, the entire team was so excited to be working with her. As part of an onboarding teambuilder, she shared that she really valued teammates who were empathetic, which was a trait that she certainly embodied. I appreciated how she focused on the human element in our work. There can be generalizations when we’re talking about school improvement and scaling initiatives, but Jeannine was always sure to prompt thinking around student perspectives and genuine relationship-building.

Beyond respecting her professionally, I really admired Jeannine as a person. She was a straight shooter and never shied away from naming hard truths (in the final meeting we all had together, she led a reflection on racist practices embedded in crisis intervention trainings), but she also made sure to celebrate accomplishments and made having fun a priority too. As much as she poured herself into her work, Jeannine also took time for herself with her family, whom she clearly loved so much. When discussing weekend plans, she always had something exciting planned with her husband Chris, and her son Naima when he was home from college. The theme for her birthday celebration last month was sparkling (a theme she assured me she strictly enforced), which was fitting since Jeannine herself sparkled with life. She will be so missed.

When Jeannine joined the team, she shared that she hoped to be able to describe her time with us as impactful. As the news reached schools about her sudden passing, many reached out with kind words and stories of just how impactful her work with them was, particularly in strengthening instructional and behavioral supports for students with disabilities. May her memory call us all to continue the work and serve the values to which Jeannine dedicated herself with authenticity, generosity, and constancy.

I’ll end with a quote that Jeannine liked to share at the beginning of her trainings from Dr. Chris Emdin, an educator and advocate she greatly admired: “True teaching is only effective when it triggers something that lasts forever or sparks a desire in the student to discover more beyond the classroom.”

Jeannine’s service will be held on Wednesday, April 12 at 11am at Miles Funeral Home (136 Decatur St., Brooklyn, NY 11216).

Bronx Community Charter School knew Jeannine very well after 13 years, as well as her son Naima, who was a student there; they created a GoFundMe to support him. There is also a separate fund for immediate expenses, including the funeral and reception, that will go to Jeannine’s husband, Chris.