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Gallagher honored by California superintendents

From left, Rudy Castruita, USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher and Greg Franklin '83, EdD '97, chair of the Dean's Superintendents Advisory Group (Photo/Ben Kaatz)
From left, Rudy Castruita, USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher and Greg Franklin '83, EdD '97, chair of the Dean's Superintendents Advisory Group (Photo/Ben Kaatz)

USC Rossier School of Education Dean Karen Symms Gallagher received the highest honor awarded by the Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group (DSAG) at its annual dinner in Monterey, Calif., last month.

Approximately 150 active and retired superintendents, many of whom are USC Rossier EdD alumni, are members of DSAG. Every year, the group recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to education innovation and reform in California.

The dinner was held in conjunction with the Association of California School Administrators’ (ACSA) Superintendents’ Symposium, which brings school leaders together from across the state to examine the governor’s budget, discuss how to transform California schools and engage in professional learning and networking.

Rudy Castruita EdD ’82, USC Rossier professor and former superintendent of schools for San Diego County and ACSA California Superintendent of the Year in 1992, presented the honorary award to Gallagher.

“Karen Gallagher is someone who leads with a focus, who is a visionary, who is courageous, who is passionate and who is recognized by her peers as a leader among leaders,” Castruita told the audience. “She is continually pushing the envelope of quality.”

In her acceptance speech, Gallagher acknowledged both the extraordinary work of the California superintendents in attendance, as well as the efforts of the teachers and school leaders of her childhood. She spoke of growing up in a single-parent home in Seattle, where her school support system was key to her academic aspirations and success.

“I know what kind of a difference all of you can make in a child’s life because I was one of those children,” Gallagher said.

Since becoming dean of USC Rossier in 2000, Gallagher has moved the school to No. 15 in the U.S. News & World Report national rankings. Under her leadership, USC Rossier faculty designed a revolutionary EdD program, now a national model, whose students tackle real problems of practice in schools and districts. The school’s newest Global Executive EdD is preparing administrators worldwide for 21st-century education leadership.

In 2009, Gallagher spearheaded the school’s launch of its groundbreaking online Master of Arts in Teaching degree, the first of its kind from a major research university. The program, a robust online and in-field degree program that mirrors the on-campus program, has now graduated 1,300 highly prepared teachers from around the country and the world, the majority of whom are teaching in hard-to-staff schools and 10 times the amount of graduates prior to the online program.

Gallagher was a leader in the effort that resulted in the opening of USC Hybrid High School in September. This Los Angeles Unified School District public charter school uses personalized curricula and schedules, technology and greatly expanded school hours to serve a population of students most at risk of dropping out.

She was awarded the 2010 Los Angeles Urban League’s Social Responsibility Award and in 2011 the Phi Delta Kappa International Service Key by the fraternity’s USC chapter. She was recently named to this year’s cohort of Pahara-Aspen fellows, a highly selective group of 24 national education reform leaders. She is the first dean of a school of education to be included.

The DSAG was established in 1980 to advise the dean on education issues, raise funds for student scholarships and recruit aspiring superintendents to join the USC doctor of education family.

The group also works to strengthen partnerships between USC Rossier and school districts locally and statewide, and it co-sponsors the school’s annual K-12 and Higher Ed Leadership Conference, which is attended by more than 200 practitioners.

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