Dean Jerrold Ross Hits All the Right Notes
Joan Baum, Ph.D.
music be not only the food of love, as Duke Orsino proclaims in
Twelfth Night, but also the sustenance of culture and civilization,
as Dr. Jerrold Ross believes, then we must all “play on.” To Dr.
Ross, who has a Ph.D. in Music Education from NYU and is Dean
of the School of Education at St. John’s University, educational
improvement is music to his ears. How do the arts fit in? “Music
is the most abstract of the arts,” requiring a high development
of thinking,” he says. It commands attention for content and “is
not dependent on what someone else says.” In fact, the dean is
supportive of all the arts and concerned that education, already
“badly hurt” by a diminution of support from the Annenberg Foundation,
may be cut to the detriment of the arts. Next year, when the new
budget kicks in, category allocations per capita will be obvious.
The arts are central to the education program at St. John’s, he
points out, “a complete turnaround” from years ago. Every undergraduate
now is given instruction in performance, and in select courses
gets to interact with faculty from the Lincoln Center Institute.
course, as dean of the School of Education at St. John’s, a post
he has held for seven years, not to mention as a member of the
board of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, a nation-wide
higher education group, Dr. Ross has wide vision and interests.
Senior among education school deans, he heads a group committed
to the idea that higher education, public and private, must be
involved in serving the schools of the city. Soon after he conceived
of such an association, he met with Deputy Mayor Dennis Wolcott
and found strong support. “Everyone wanted to jump in,” and so
a first and private meeting was held on July 2, which will be
followed in the near future by one open to the public. “Every
university dean of education is on board,” not to mention CUNY
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. The days of political competition
seem to be over, Dean Ross suggests. There is united feeling that
higher education must have “more voice” in helping the city’s
schools. Certainly, Dr. Ross will be playing a major role in recommending
policies and procedures, as will St. John’s.
The St. John’s program already boasts impressive figures, including
an undergraduate retention rate of 80-90 percent. Even before
students are graduated, Dean Ross points out, they are offered
jobs “sight unseen, ”such is the program’s reputation. Surprisingly,
it is a large program – 2500 students on three campuses – Queens,
Staten Island and Oakdale, LI. The dean has no problem meeting
the needs of affiliated districts —14 in Brooklyn and
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