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Never Give Up

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Carl Cohn, a longtime educator who joined USC’s Rossier School of Education this fall, has a simple message for future teachers and administrators: “There’s no secret formula for making the world a better place. You just have to give a damn and reach out to your students.”

After running the 97,000-student Long Beach Unified School District for the past decade, Cohn is ready to return to the classroom – this time preparing future educators and administrators at USC.

Cohn spent the past 30 years in public school education – ranging from teaching and counseling to supervising. He was the longest serving superintendent of an urban school district.

“It is a great coup for the Rossier School to have someone of Dr. Cohn’s experience and reputation join us,” said Karen Gallagher, dean of the Rossier School of Education. “He is well respected and brings with him a wealth of knowledge about the primary focus of the Rossier School – urban education.”

Cohn hopes to draw on the accomplishments – and the challenges – of his career.

“Preparing the next generation of urban school leaders may well be the most critical leadership development work facing our country, and the Rossier School is uniquely positioned to make a major contribution,” he said.

Cohn oversaw several reform measures at LBUSD, including school uniforms, single-sex instruction, an end to social promotion and a partnership with higher education.

At USC, Cohn will develop new urban superintendent preparation programs and teach courses on the politics of education. He also hopes to design a new course for undergraduates on the history of urban education.

Earlier this year, Cohn received the 2001 Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in education. Former winners of the prize include U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, former first lady Barbara Bush and L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Roy Romer.

Cohn participated in the White House Conference on Youth Drug Use and Violence in 1996 where he discussed local initiatives in reducing youth violence with President Clinton and Vice President Gore. In her book, “It Takes a Village,” Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Long Beach’s pioneering efforts in establishing higher dress and behavior standards for students.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s College in Camarillo, Calif., Cohn landed a teaching job at Dominguez Senior High School in the Compton Unified School District. He was later hired as a counselor at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, where he was active in student and community affairs. There he served on the Poly Community Interracial Committee and won the PTA Honorary Service Award in 1976.

Cohn earned his master’s degree in counseling at Chapman University in Orange and is his Ed.D. from UCLA in Urban Educational Policy and Planning.

Cohn’s position at USC isn’t his first in higher education: In 1984, he left Long Beach to teach the politics of education at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, he worked as a consultant for the Tri-State School Study Council and the Race Desegregation Assistance Center. In 1986, he accepted a similar position at California State University, Los Angeles.

In January of 1988, he returned to the Long Beach Unified School District as director of attendance, a position he held until his appointment as area superintendent in July 1990. In August 1992, he was selected as superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District.

Last spring, Cohn was the commencement speaker at the Rossier School of Education ceremony. He delivered these final words to graduates:

“The real victories are the quiet ones that take place every day in the classroom. Give them hope. Give them a chance. Change their lives. … Never give up. Practice the art of the possible.”

Contact Gilien Silsby at (213) 740-4751.

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