Teacher Education in Calif. Lands 3 Windfalls

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When Barbara and Roger Rossier decided to make what is possibly the largest single donations ever to a school of education, they hoped it would be part of a new philanthropic trend.

They didn't have to wait long. News last week of the Orange County, Calif., couple's $20 million gift to the University of Southern California's education school came as two other major California donations aimed at teacher preparation were announced.

Sol Price, the founder of the Price Club chain of discount stores, has committed $18 million to help forge a partnership between San Diego State University and three of that city's public schools. And Arnold Beckman, a prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and scientist, last week gave a $14 million boost to science instruction in Orange County's elementary schools.

Officials at the Washington-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education said they didn't know of a larger unrestricted donation to a school of education than the Rossiers' gift. The donation, in fact, is about $5 million more than the USC school's annual operating budget.

"The first reaction is pure joy," said Guilbert Hentschke, the dean of the education school at the private Los Angeles university. "And now, we're going to take a year and seriously ask ourselves what investments are really going to best increase the promise for the most kids."

'No Other Place'

Mr. Hentschke's school, which has long emphasized its programs in urban education, will likely use the gift to help finance a combination of faculty hiring, student support, and education research. "The projects will have pretty compelling arguments that they can have a really high potential for changing achievement for kids in urban schools," he said.

Mr. Hentschke called it "heartening" that the Rossiers are both educators and graduates of the school, which will now bear their name.

"There was no other place for the funds to go," Mrs. Rossier said last week. "Schools of education need to do what USC is doing, which is to combine research and practice so teachers can learn to do different things. I don't think the schools of education deserve the beating-up that they get."

Between them, the Rossiers hold four graduate degrees from the USC school. They both worked as junior high school teachers and school counselors early in their careers, and then branched out into several ambitious educational and entrepreneurial pursuits.

In 1980, they started the private Rossier School to serve children with emotional disorders and learning disabilities. The school has grown to 190 students in grades K-12, has two campuses in Orange County, and draws students from more than 38 area school districts.

Over the years, they've also run a private educational counseling practice, started a travel agency, and entered the real estate market. Ms. Rossier is 63, and her husband is 66.

"It's a simple kind of story," Mrs. Rossier said. "We had some very good advice along the way, and we're both very hard workers."

New Partners

Urban public school students also will be the primary beneficiaries of Mr. Price's donation. The gift from the 82-year-old La Jolla resident will allow nearby San Diego State University essentially to adopt three schools in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood. The area, which has been a target of Mr. Price's generosity for several years, is a melting pot of different racial and ethnic groups, and its schools have long struggled with low performance.

The plan, which the local school board and teachers' union overwhelmingly approved, allows the partnership to run the three schools almost as charter schools. By combining their resources and expertise, they hope that the schools can raise student performance and that San Diego State can make its programs more relevant to the needs of urban educators. The partnership includes the entire university; fledgling social workers, for example, will likely be sent to City Heights along with teachers.

"Schools of education have not changed as fast as the problems," said Marc Knapp, the president of the San Diego Education Association, a National Education Association affiliate. "So what better place for them to go than to the schools where they'll face those issues."

Elementary schools throughout Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, meanwhile, will reap the benefits of what is reportedly one of the largest single donations from an individual to a California school system.

The gift from the 98-year-old Mr. Beckman, an Orange County resident whose career includes numerous scientific breakthroughs, will provide teachers with new instructional materials, along with training in how to use it. The money also will provide grants of $200,000 that local districts can use for additional professional development and equipment.

Vol. 18, Issue 3, Page 3

Published in Print: September 23, 1998, as Teacher Education in Calif. Lands 3 Windfalls
Web Resources
  • In addition to the news of the Rossier's $20 million gift, USC offers highlights in the 90-Year History of USC's Rossier School of Education.
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