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Education leaders provide career advice at USC Rossier conference

Felicia Hunt and John Brooks Slaughter participate in a higher education panel at the USC Rossier K-12 Higher Education Leadership Conference. (Photo/Eric Reed)

Current and aspiring education leaders attended the USC Rossier School of Education K-12 Higher Education Leadership Conference on July 26 to hear from the nation’s top education administrators on the current state of the profession.

Nearly 200 USC Rossier alumni, students and K-12 administrators attended the conference, which featured breakout panel discussions focused on career pathways for leaders of schools, districts and — for the first time — colleges and universities. Dean Karen Symms Gallagher greeted the audience and introduced the special guests.

Co-sponsored by the Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group (DSAG), the conference was attended by members of the USC Rossier Board of Councilors, including Mark Rocha PhD ’88, superintendent and president of Pasadena City College; Don Leisey EdD ’73, former superintendent and educational entrepreneur; Carol Fox MS ’62, USC trustee and Board of Councilors vice-chair; and DSAG Chair Greg Franklin ’83, EdD ’97, superintendent of the Tustin Unified School District.

“One thing that’s unique about USC Rossier is the connections you maintain after you get your degree,” Franklin told the crowd, which included a contingent of EdD alumni and students. “No other group in the world looks after their own like USC does.”

Rudy Crew, a professor at USC Rossier who was recently appointed as Oregon’s chief education officer, delivered a keynote address on leadership in the K-12 education system and critical issues that future leaders need to address to improve their school districts.

“You cannot do this work without signing up for leadership, and the context of leadership is as important as the ability to execute against a set of goals and objectives,” Crew said. “How you frame the discussion means everything. How you enter the human heart is everything because this is just as much about the heart as it is the mind.”

Crew urged audience members to identify the problem, articulate a strategy and persevere in a bid to achieve their goal. He also called on future leaders to take time to reflect.

“Ask yourself if you’re in love with these children and their futures. Or are you simply doing a job?” he said. “If you really love it, you’ll demonstrate your vulnerability … and you will be the best learner of your schools before you will be the best leader.”

Following the keynote, Franklin spoke about four key challenges in K-12 education — globalization, information technology revolution, budget constraints and competition. He called for educators to find creative ways to use technology in classrooms despite the lack of funds.

“The technology we need to use to prepare kids for their careers has not been invented yet, but we still have to teach them how to think, apply and analyze,” Franklin said. “Manual jobs have been outsourced or mechanized, and we need to prepare kids for high-level, rigorous work.”

Attendees broke into four targeted panel discussions, which featured insights and advice about careers in leadership from a host of USC Rossier alumni with extensive experience in their respective fields.

Professor Pedro Garcia EdD ’83, former superintendent of Nashville Public Schools, moderated a panel for site administrators, which featured Erik Elward EdD ’11, founding principal of Alliance Health Services Academy High School; Myrna Morales EdD ’05, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Paramount Unified School District; and Andrew Pulver EdD ’11, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Los Alamitos Unified School District.

Franklin led a panel for district officers with Derrick Chau PhD ’02, instructional director at the Los Angeles Unified School District; Helen Morgan BS ’82, EdD ’10, superintendent of the Hawthorne School District; and James Elsasser EdD ’11, superintendent of the Claremont Unified School District.

USC Rossier Executive in Residence Mike Escalante EdD ’02, former superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District, moderated the superintendents panel featuring Professor Rudy Castruita EdD ’83, former superintendent of schools for San Diego County, and Peggy Lynch, former superintendent for the San Dieguito Union High School District.

Rocha moderated the conference’s higher education panel, which included Felicito Cajayon EdD ’12, vice chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District’s Economic and Workforce Development Department; Sonja Daniels EdD ’10, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at California State Universitiy, Dominguez Hills; Felicia Hunt ME ’96, EdD ’04, associate dean of graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology; and Professor John Brooks Slaughter, former president of Occidental College.

“This conference is such a valuable resource for our alumni and students to learn about the paths ahead of them as education leaders from members of our Trojan Family who have already charted the way,” said Kalim Rayburn EdD ’11, director of alumni engagement at USC Rossier.

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