School District Leadership Takes Step Forward with Announcement of AASA-USC Urban Superintendents Academy Graduates


James Minichello
703-774-6953 (cell)

Alexandria, Va. – May 31, 2016 – In an effort to strengthen public school district leadership in some of the nation’s most challenged school districts, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is pleased to announce the first-ever cohort of educators to successfully complete the AASA-University of Southern California Urban Superintendents Academy.  

More than a dozen educators recently graduated from the nearly yearlong program created to prepare superintendents for the demands of the country’s most challenged school districts.    

“Children need champions, which is why we are pleased to partner with USC’s Rossier School of Education on this critical initiative,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “We commend the first cohort of graduates for the work they have accomplished. Creating a pathway for urban school leadership is one solution in our effort to confront the issue of equity in this country.”

“Fostering effective learning environments in urban education on local, national and global levels is at the heart of USC Rossier’s mission,” said Karen Symms Gallagher, dean, USC Rossier School of Education. “The graduates of the AASA-USC Urban Superintendents Academy are positioned to changing the culture of learning in the school districts in which they will serve—which is why this announcement is so important.”

Launched in 2015, The AASA-USC Rossier program features:  

  • A small cohort of superintendents who will learn through an online approach;
  • Content designed specifically for the existing and emerging urban environments across the United States;
  • Mentors and program facilitators; and
  • An AASA/USC Rossier certificate following successful completion of a capstone project.

Maria Ott, professor of clinical education, is serving as USC’s lead faculty member for the AASA/USC Rossier Urban Superintendents Academy. For more information about the Academy, visit the AASA website. For questions, contact Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director at / 703-875-0726 or Bernadine Futrell, AASA director, awards and collaborations at / 703-875-0717.

The 2015-16 AASA/USC Urban Superintendents Academy cohort is comprised of:

  • Darryl S. Adams, superintendent Coachella Valley Unified School District (Calif.)
  • Maria Covarrubias, founding principal, Renuevo Schools (Calif.)
  • Ben Drati, assistant superintendent Santa Barbara School District (Calif.)
  • Nisha Dugal, senior director, secondary schools, Torrance Unified School District (Calif.)
  • Angel Gallardo, director, administrative services, Montebello Unified School District (Calif.)
  • Stella M. Kemp, assistant superintendent, Educational Services, Franklin - McKinley School District (Calif.)
  • Kym LeBlanc-Esparza, superintendent Newberg School District (Ore.)
  • Elida MacArthur, assistant superintendent, Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District (Calif.)
  • Kimberly M. MacKinney, chief academic officer, Oro Grande School District (Calif.)
  • Angelica M. Ramsey, associate superintendent, Santa Clara County Office of Education (Calif.) (Recently accepted the position as superintendent of the Pleasant Valley School District (Calif.)
  • Marion J. Smith, Jr., regional director, student and school success, Puget Sound Educational Service District (Wash.)
  • Frank Wells, director, education leadership, Santa Clara County Office of Education (Calif.)
  • Shawn K. Wightman, superintendent Marysville Public School District (Mich.)


About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit