ACSA at 50 | Past leaders: Alice Petrossian
March 21, 2022
It may be hard to believe there was a time that Alice Petrossian wasn’t an ACSA member. In 1979, while earning her administrative credential from California State University, Los Angeles, she was called into the dean’s office along with a handful of others and urged to join. “We felt so honored to be asked to join ACSA,” she recalled. Petrossian would go on to become an administrator in Glendale USD and Pasadena USD, serve as a chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, president of the Board of Governors for the California Community Colleges and eventually president of ACSA in 2011-12. Petrossian is also an ACSA Ambassador and Recruiter, and serves as a liaison for the State Retirement Committee. She became the Partnership Executive for ACSA’s Partner4Purpose program in 2021.
Tell me about your support for women school leaders? One of the things that bothered most of us was, if you look at the roster of past presidents, we were averaging one female every eight or 10 years as a president. And so I pressed extremely, extremely hard to make sure that we were getting more females in leadership in ACSA. Frank Gomez was president when I was on the executive committee, but I drove Frank and executive crazy asking for support and they said, “OK, OK. We’ll create a Women’s Leadership Network — you can run it.” ACSA had had one early on and all of the sudden, it kind of disappeared during the years that followed. My memory of that group was so positive I wanted other women to have such a network. Today we have a great network. As a women leader, when I went into administration, only 18 percent of women were in superintendency. It’s much higher today, and I am thrilled. It’s been wonderful to have women leaders who want to fight that fight within ACSA. These are the leaders that carry the banner for servant and ethical leadership with courage. We keep breaking those glass ceilings.
Why do you enjoy giving back? I like volunteering, serving and giving. If you’ve had a blessed life, you give back was what my parents taught me. As an immigrant child, I never dreamed that I would go anything beyond being a teacher — and that was enough for me, my mother had been a teacher in Iran. We fled from Iran because of the danger for Christian families, especially women. I knew the pain that women suffered that were talented and so I was blessed to live and grow in the USA. I’m the American dream. I served four governors and one president. Who would have thought this kid at age 10 enters the country without a word of English and would have these amazing opportunities?
What would you say to someone running for ACSA leadership? Anyone who thinks that by becoming ACSA president, you’re going to be on a career ladder trajectory or get your next dream job is being misled. That’s not what happens. I think the majority of us serve because we thought we could make a difference for our colleagues and the children of California. If you’re going to step forth, for future leaders, some advice: It’s never about you, it’s about the cause. It’s about courageous leadership. You must be the one that’s willing to speak up to make the difference. Always ask, what will be my legacy as a leader of this great organization? Last advice is plan on it being a lifetime commitment, because if you really care for an organization, it’s for life. It’s like a marriage.
ACSA at 50
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Alice Petrossian (center) with Past State President Sandy Clifton (left) and Past ACSA Leader and Region 8 Consultant Patricia Einfalt (right).
Petrossian’s installation as ACSA president in 2011.
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