Education News

Celebrating excellence in education: DSAG 2024 Awards Dinner

Honoring Wesley I. Smith EdD ’05 and four outstanding scholars advancing educational equity

By Katrina Nash Published on

On January 25, 2024, the Dean’s Superintendent Advisory Group (DSAG) proudly inducted Wesley I. Smith EdD ’05 into the DSAG Hall of Fame. With over 160 DSAG members, guests, event sponsors and USC Rossier faculty and staff in attendance, three current EdD students were awarded a DSAG scholarship and one EdD student was awarded the TELACU scholarship of $10,000 each.

Smith currently serves as the Superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. During his tenure, Smith has demonstrated a strong commitment to academic improvement, whole-child support, enhanced family engagement, and the development of comprehensive maintenance and facility master plans. Recognizing the critical role of reading and literacy skills in elementary education, Smith’s leadership has led to notable increases in English language arts test scores and expanded enrollment in Advanced Placement courses among secondary students.

“I am deeply humbled and honored by this recognition that extends beyond me to the entire educational community. This serves as a testament to our collective pursuit of excellence. Let us persist in our unwavering dedication, inspiring one another and our students to deliver a standard of education that truly embodies quality and sets the foundation for a brighter future,” said Smith.

The DSAG Endowed Scholarship, an annual award given to EdD students aspiring to superintendent positions, was presented to four outstanding scholars:

  • Kim Linz, a second-year student, shared her gratitude for the scholarship’s financial support and the validation it provides for her potential as a future superintendent. Originally from a small town in Wisconsin, Linz currently serves as the chief business officer for the El Segundo Unified School District, and she aspires to lead as a superintendent. She said, “The belief that other superintendents see in me as having the potential to step into shoes like theirs, that is the best encouragement I could receive.”
  • Parisa Mazandarani, a second-year student and assistant principal at Tustin Unified, views the scholarship as a vote of confidence in her professional endeavors. With a focus on reducing suspension rates and closing the equity gap in dual enrollment options, Mazandarani’s immigrant background and dedication to student success serve as driving forces in her leadership journey. She described the scholarship as “a big vote of confidence in the work that I’m doing and where I want to go.”
  • Rhonda Overby, a first-year student, recently accepted the position of Assistant Superintendent at Lowell Joint School District. With a focus on supporting marginalized populations, including homeless and foster youth, Overby is determined to make a meaningful impact in her leadership role. She said, “I feel very honored to have been selected, that there is something about me that stands out to donors who believe I am worthy of this scholarship.”
  • The 2024 TELACU scholarship recipient, Charlene Saenz, currently serves as the assistant superintendent of personnel services for the Chaffey Joint Union High School District. Saenz, a third-year student, expressed immense gratitude for the recognition and emphasized her commitment to uplifting marginalized students and fostering educational advancement for all. She said, “This scholarship proves that I am capable, that I have individuals who believe in me, who are willing to invest in me and my future.”

Through the partnership with TELACU, as well as DSAG sponsors and donors, DSAG continues to empower future leaders in education, recognizing their potential to effect positive change in communities and championing their professional growth and development.

Please click here to view event photos.

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