USD Remarkable Leaders in Education to be Honored Saturday

School of Leadership & Education Sciences honors the area’s most influential educators

The University of San Diego’s School of Leadership & Education Sciences (SOLES) will host the 2010 Remarkable Leaders in Education Honorees this Saturday, November 13th. The annual award lends an opportunity to honor legendary contributions to the field of education made by educators from San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Each year, members of the community nominate those whose careers as educators, administrators, elected officials and community leaders are deemed extraordinary and outstanding in their contributions to the field of education.

Paula Cordeiro, Dean of SOLES, said “Our honorees represent some of the best and most committed individuals in this region.  Many stepped outside their own careers to volunteer and make a difference for students and families here in San Diego and Imperial Counties.  The ripple of change these honorees put in place through their dedication and passion for education can be felt far beyond San Diego.”

The awards ceremony will take place on November 13, 2010 at Hill Hall at the University of San Diego. The event will begin at 4:00 p.m. and is open to the press.

This year, SOLES will be honoring five individuals; Bertha Pendleton, Rev. Vahac Mardirosian, Mary Searcy Bixby, Judy McDonald, and the late Patricia Cegelka.

Dr. Bertha Ousley Pendleton’s career began in San Diego classrooms, where she built her knowledge base and saw firsthand the challenges that students and educators face. She served as a teacher, counselor, principal, program director, assistant and deputy superintendent during her 40-year career in education, and served as superintendent of the San Diego City Schools from 1993 to1998. She was the first woman and first African American to hold the position. Pendleton has championed equity in education and led reform policies that influenced state education trends. Pendleton strengthened reading programs, reduced class size in primary grades and imposed a rigorous accountability system. During her tenure fourteen schools were built in overcrowded urban areas and zero tolerance policies toward violence were instituted throughout the district.

The Reverend Vahac Mardirosian is passionate about advancing educational reform for Hispanics in California. A Baptist minister born in Syria, raised in Mexico and educated in the United States, Mardirosian knows firsthand the challenges parents and students of non-dominate cultures face as they work to achieve student success. Since 1948 he has worked with Hispanic communities across the United States as a pastor, director of ministries and counselor. In 1968 he helped mediate the positive outcome of a school walkout and subsequent sit-in in East Los Angeles. He is also the founder of Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC) to further articulate needs and advocate for reform with the school board for the predominately Mexican American population. Mardirosian also founded the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) to train parents in the skills necessary to encourage the academic success of their children.

Mary Searcy Bixby is the founder, president and CEO of the first charter school authorized by the San Diego Unified School District. The Charter School of San Diego was the result of pioneering efforts to offer students viable educational alternatives within the public school setting. Bixby also founded the Audeo Charter School in 2001 and in 2007 the Mirus Secondary School. Her innovative work in the creation of a city-wide charter school which has a unique collaboration with the business community was acknowledged by the California Network of Educational Charter Schools in its first Senator Gary Hart Vision Award (1995).  Bixby recognizes that many students need an alternative to the traditional education model.  Continuing her vision for educational reform, Bixby developed the Altus Institute, a parent organization for the network of charter schools.  Altus Institute acts as a resource for innovative methodologies regarding alternative education. The Institute supports educators in acquiring the skills necessary to become leaders in improving education.  In 2009, Bixby received the 2009 “Women Who Mean Business” Award from the San Diego Business Journal.  She was the first individual to receive the Inspirational School Leader Award from the Charter Schools Development Center in 2006 and is a recipient of the University of San Diego Alumni Association’s Bishop Charles Francis Buddy Humanitarian Award and the Cross Pro Ecclesia from Pope John Paul II for service through education. Recently, Bixby has been named a Woman of the Year 2010 finalist by San Diego Magazine.  Bixby earned an undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego as well as a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

Through her leadership and philanthropic expertise, Judy McDonald has made real educational change possible in San Diego. Her dedication to improve the lives of children has resulted in programs addressing issues ranging from school desegregation to after-school education. For more than 40 years McDonald has worked behind the scenes to confront civic inequities, raise community awareness, and secure adequate funding for a wide range of programs that have dramatically impacted the educational landscape. As a member of the Citizen’s Board for Desegregating Schools in San Diego in the mid-1960s, McDonald worked closely with elected officials and San Diego civil rights leaders to desegregate San Diego County schools. As an advocate for children in the community, McDonald recognized the unmet needs of children who have become dependents of the San Diego County Court. In 1980, she was one of the founders of Voices for Children, a San Diego based nonprofit organization working with agencies, legal counsel and community resources to identify and protect the interests of these children. In 1992, McDonald co-founded the Children’s Initiative, a uniquely effective collaboration of projects and programs supporting the health and well-being of children and youth in the fields of health, education, safety and economic security. She led efforts to secure a previously unprecedented grant of $5.6 million for after-school programs.

Patricia Cegelka was a pioneer in the preparation of special education teachers in California and the nation. She was dedicated to the improvement of programs and services for students with disabilities and worked tirelessly to secure funding to advance research in best practices and standards for special education. Cegelka, a professor and chair of the department of Special Education at San Diego State University, was a gifted writer. She was the project director and principal investigator on more than 24 federal or state funded grants totaling in the millions of dollars. Cegelka was an evaluator on grant programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs and other agencies. She developed a bilingual special education partnership with San Diego Unified School District that supported more than 40 bilingual professionals in the 1990s. As a member of the California Department of Education Commission on Teacher Credentialing task force, she helped develop the interface between the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program and special education. She was the force behind the preparation of more than 1,000 special education teachers in San Diego and Imperial counties, in turn positively impacting thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families throughout the area.

Additional information on the honorees and the Remarkable Leaders program is available upon request by calling (619) 260-4659.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.