Rossier News

At awards ceremony, superintendent group keeps emphasis on mentoring

The Dean’s Superintendent Advisory Group gave its 2018 scholarships to three women leaders

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Three EDL students took home scholarships last week as part of the annual Dean’s Superintendent Advisory Group awards banquet.

This year’s awards, held in Monterey, Calif., continued last year’s focus on women’s leadership paths and mentoring. The DSAG scholarships went to three women, a first for the organization:

  • Beth Rabel Blackman, principal of Heritage Elementary STEAM Magnet School in the Tustin Unified School District
  • Elizabeth Morales Leon, principal of Acacia Elementary School in the Fullerton School District; and
  • Kenya Williams, assistant principal at Augustus F. Hawkins High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District
  • In her speech at the awards ceremony, Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of USC Rossier, emphasized that preparing women to be superintendents is but one step in creating gender parity within school administrations.

“A significant proportion of our EDL graduates are women, and we should rightfully be proud of that,” Gallagher said. “But these aspiring leaders then graduate from our program only to face the reality of a national job market that continues to fill 85 percent of superintendent positions with men, and this despite the fact that 72 percent of K-12 educators are women.”

To that end, DSAG also hosted a second annual Women’s Breakfast, emphasizing the value of support and mentorship between women in district leadership, how to get more women into leadership positions and retaining them there.

At the awards ceremony, Gallagher expressed optimism that the three scholarship recipients would be successful.

“If the trajectories of our former scholarship winners are any indication of your future paths, then I have a strong suspicion that we will become increasingly familiar with your names and contributions for many years to come,” she said.

Building the scholarship fund

In addition to the scholarship recipients, DSAG also inducted John Roach EdD ’18 into the group’s Hall of Fame. Roach, an adjunct professor at USC Rossier, began his career in the Lennox, Calif., school district as a 6th grade teacher before working his way up to middle school principal and, ultimately, superintendent of Carlsbad Unified School District, where he served from 2004-12 before retiring.

Roach has served as an integral fundraiser for DSAG, as well, and he continued that after being recognized with the Hall of Fame award.

“This year alone we had 73 donors to the DSAG scholarship fund and raised $59,290,” Roach reported. He also noted giving from Margaret Chidester, a member of the USC Rossier board of councilors, who matched gifts of $250 or more from first-time DSAG members for the fourth year in a row.

Roach and other DSAG members have committed to finishing a $1 million scholarship campaign; the endowment now totals just over $600,000.

Annual gifts can be made to the DSAG Endowed Scholarship Fund to support future EdD students aspiring to become superintendents. Every gift counts toward the Campaign for the USC Rossier School of Education and helps grow the endowment to increase the number of scholarships awarded in the future. To make a gift, visit or contact Rachel Beal, director of major gifts, at 213-821‑5378 or

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