USC Rossier and AASA launch Urban Superintendents Academy

Dr. Maria Ott

Dr. Maria Ott

USC Rossier is joining with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, to launch the Urban Superintendents Academy, which will create more pathways for underrepresented educators to become school district leaders. The national program’s goal is to prepare superintendents for the demands of the urban environment and address the reality that less than 5 percent of our nation’s superintendents are persons of color.

“The AASA-Rossier Urban Superintendents Academy tackles the need for diverse leaders for urban school districts,” says Maria Ott, professor of clinical education at USC Rossier and the lead faculty member for the academy. “It is crucial that superintendents have the skills to lead the most challenging systems in our nation.”

Previously, Ott served more than seven years as Superintendent of the Rowland Unified School District. She is nationally known for establishing partnerships with private foundations to reach high levels of literacy and raise student achievement, placing Rowland Unified on the national stage. Ott also served five years as the Senior Deputy Superintendent in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), second in authority to Superintendent Roy Romer.

“Minority children need champions,” says Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA. “The resources generated by USC Rossier…will be invaluable as we prepare aspiring superintendents for urban environments.”

“When we welcome the first cohort to this unique certificate program,” adds Ott, “we will be producing diverse leaders that reflect the new face of public education in our nation.”

The USC Rossier model will build on the school’s great success in online programs, offering live synchronous and asynchronous online courses. The program will include in-person immersion sessions and mentoring by local superintendents, wherever the student is based. An AASA-USC Rossier certificate will follow successful completion of a capstone project.

“When we welcome the first cohort to this unique certificate program, we will be producing diverse leaders that reflect the new face of public education in our nation.”

—Maria Ott

“USC Rossier’s mission to improve learning in urban education locally, nationally and globally is well served by this new partnership,” says Dean Gallagher. “Rossier has a long and successful history of preparing diverse superintendents for leadership roles in our most challenged K-12 districts, and we are proud to join forces with AASA to extend this critical effort.”

USC Rossier has a nationally known and emulated Education Doctorate, which now includes a cohort specifically for aspiring superintendents. Alumni of the EdD program include 60 current superintendents, with the greatest concentration in Southern California districts. Among the current cohort in the EdD program, seven are sitting superintendents. That large and growing base provides a rich resource for the new effort.

“The AASA-Urban Superintendents Academy is building on something USC superintendents have known and practiced for a long time—networks and mentoring are important,” says Greg Franklin ’83, EdD ’97, superintendent of the Tustin Unified School District and the Association of California School Administrators’ 2014 California Superintendent of the Year. Franklin is also chair of the Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group, which includes current and retired superintendents who consult with Dean Gallagher, raise scholarship funds for EdD students and recruit aspiring superintendents to join the USC family.

Earlier this year, AASA also launched an Urban Superintendents Academy with Howard University’s School of Education.

For more information about the Urban Superintendents Academy, contact Colleen Dietz (