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May 2014 Member Spotlight - Maria Gutierrez Ott, Ph.D.

Maria Gutierrez Ott, Ph.D.,
Retired Superintendent
Rowland Unified School District;
Executive in Residence at USC Rossier School of Education

Career Highlights & Education:  I was the oldest of four children and the first in my family to attend college. As superintendents, we inspire young people to have dreams and to reach their potential. By sharing our personal stories we are able to motivate students in our districts and encourage themto pursue their dreams.  

I attended Mt. St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, a college committed to development of women as leaders in professional careers and throughout society. I earned both my bachelor's and master's degrees from Mt. St. Mary’s, and I earned my doctorate degree from USC Rossier School of Education. 
Most of my career was spent in the Los Angeles Unified School District, beginning as a teacher and moving through leadership roles at the school and district level. I left LAUSD in 1993 to accept an appointment as superintendent of the Little Lake City School District in Southeastern LA County. The award of an Annenberg grant and an invitation to become one of the Annenberg superintendents highlighted my tenure in Little Lake. 

In 2000, I was recruited to return to LAUSD to serve as senior deputy superintendent to Roy Romer, former Governor of Colorado. My experiences as deputy were transformative and immersed me in every aspect of the political, organizational and educational challenges facing the second largest and most diverse school districts in the nation.

In 2005, I was recruited to serve as superintendent of the Rowland Unified School District.  Highlights from Rowland Unified include working with the Ball Foundation based in Illinois to improve literacy throughout the district and passing a general obligation bond to modernize all K – 12 facilities.

In 2012, I retired from my role as superintendent to accept a position as executive in residence at USC Rossier School of Education, helping design curriculum and teaching in a new online program for aspiring administrators.

What I like best about my job is:  Joining the USC Rossier School of Education faculty has reignited my love of teaching. It is great to be in a classroom, and teaching in a virtual classroom has stretched my expertise. The students build powerful relationships with one another and with the faculty members. I now appreciate the power of online teaching and learning.

The best advice I’ve ever received is:  Be authentic. People want a leader that is not afraid to be genuine.

Advice you would give a new superintendent or school system leader:  Share your beliefs with those who look to you for leadership. Your passion and commitment to making a difference for all students will inspire others to work with youto achieve outstanding results. Make sure your moral compass guides all you do.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found:  You would find me playing with my grandchildren. My seven grandchildren, ages 1 to 11,keep me grounded and on the ground. Getting down on the ground with grandkids is great exercise for retired superintendents. It is also humbling. Grandkids don’t really want to hear about all the meetings you attended during the day.

People would be surprised to know that:  My first language was German. Growing up with my father’s Mexican-American family in East Los Angeles, I learned to speak Spanish. So now I am trying to relearn German, and it is not easy. When I open my mouth to answer a question in class, Spanish comes out.

One thing I wish more people knew about ALAS is:  Familia is the word that describes ALAS.  The ALAS Familia connects leaders committed to making a difference for our Latino youth and ensuring equity for all students. Working together, wonderful relationships grow. I wish more people could experience the deep commitment that ALAS members bring to the work of transforming our nation’s public schools.