Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award

BTN Wake County

The Public School Forum of North Carolina Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award was established by the Public School Forum Board of Directors in 2000 to recognize exemplary leaders who have made outstanding contributions to public education.  The award may be given to anyone who has displayed innovative, creative, effective leadership for public education in North Carolina.

The award is named in honor of the late Dr. Jay Robinson, one of our state’s most distinguished education leaders. His career spanned 50 years, beginning as a math teacher and basketball and football coach in Cabarrus County, becoming a school principal and later superintendent of schools in first Cabarrus and then Charlotte-Mecklenburg school systems. He served as vice president for public affairs and special projects for the University of North Carolina system and chaired the State Board of Education. He was also the first president of the Public School Forum and served as an Emeritus Member of the Board until his death in April 2000.

Former North Carolina Governor James G. Martin and former Public School Forum leaders John Dornan and Jo Ann Norris were the recipients of the 2016 Public School Forum of North Carolina Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award.

2016 Recipients

Former Public School Forum of North Carolina leaders John Dornan & Jo Ann Norris

Former Gov. Dr. James G. Martin

Governor Martin, along with Dornan and Norris, were honored at a gala event on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Raleigh Convention Center. In addition to honoring this year’s recipients, the Forum will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary as part of the evening festivities.

“Governor Jim Martin is part of a long and proud North Carolina tradition of bipartisan support of public education,” said Forum Chairman Dr. Michael D. Priddy. “As a former professor, Governor Martin understood the critical role of teachers and made support for public schools a central part of his economic agenda.”

James G. “Jim” Martin is North Carolina’s only two-term Republican governor, serving as the state’s chief executive from 1985 to 1993. Before his election to that job in 1984, Martin served 12 years in Congress and six years on the Mecklenburg County Commission. He began his professional career as a professor of chemistry at Davidson College.

As governor, Jim Martin pushed for increased spending on public schools and improved teacher salaries. He was also an early advocate of a career ladder for teachers. Governor Martin instituted new total immersion training in foreign languages for teachers and expanded foreign languages into the K-5 public school curriculum. He also launched a new day care initiative, an anti-dropout program targeting additional resources to disadvantaged preschoolers and a campaign against illiteracy.

John Dornan and Jo Ann Norris led the Public School Forum of North Carolina from its inception, serving together as Executive Director and Associate Executive Director for nearly 25 years.

“There are very few people in North Carolina who have played as critical a role in shaping and driving a positive public education agenda for our state as John Dornan and Jo Ann Norris,” said Priddy. “Under their leadership, the Public School Forum brought together educators, legislators and business leaders to tackle the state’s most pressing education issues, whether it was our teacher pipeline or funding inequities in our public schools. Their positive contributions to education in North Carolina will be felt for decades.”

Dornan began his career as an English teacher and held various leadership positions with teacher associations in Illinois, New York and North Carolina. He was the founding Executive Director of the Public School Forum, a position he held until his retirement in 2011. Jo Ann Norris began her professional career as a first grade teacher in Wake County where she taught for more than 20 years. She was honored in 1979 as the North Carolina Teacher of the Year. Prior to joining the Forum in 1986, she was lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of Educators. Norris succeeded Dornan as Executive Director, a position she held from 2011 until her retirement in 2014.

Under the leadership of John Dornan and Jo Ann Norris, the Public School Forum of North Carolina became the state’s most trusted and respected source for education research, policy analysis, best practices and high-quality, innovative programs. The Forum developed and led the NC Teaching Fellows Program which produced more than 8,000 teachers that served in all 100 of North Carolina counties. The Forum also played a key role in spotlighting funding inequities across the state’s public school systems that led to the Low Wealth Schools Supplemental Fund and later underpinned much of the landmark Leandro case that is still being litigated today.

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Previous Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award Recipients

Laura Bilbro-Berry
Lead Coordinator, Wachovia Partnership East & ECU College of Education
NC Teaching Fellows Graduate, NC Teacher of the Year, 2000-01

Dr. Tom McNeel
Retired Educator
Former Superintendent,
Caldwell County Schools

Dr. James F. Causby
Executive Director, North Carolina’s Superintendent Association
Former Superintendent,
Johnston County Schools

Dr. Robert E. Bridges
Retired Educator and Consultant

Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr.
Resident Superior Court Judge

Dr. Ann T. Denlinger
Vice President, William Peace University
Former Educator

Phil J. Kirk, Jr.
Director of Energy Services, Brady Energy Services
Former Vice President of External Relations, Catawba College

Dr. William C. Harrison
Former chair of State Board of Education
Former Superintendent of Cumberland County Schools

Dr. Dudley E. Flood
Education Consultant

Lawrence L. “Larry” Seigler
Retired Executive
DSM Pharmaceuticals, Inc

Erskine Bowles
Former President, UNC system

Dr. Sam Houston
President & CEO
North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center

Justice Burley Mitchell
Former Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court

Dr. Peggy Smith
Professor & Education Administrator
Campbell University

Dr. Edward Eugene “Gene” Causby
Education Consultant, Lobbyist
Former Executive Director, NC School Boards Association

Dr. Patricia “Pat” Ashley
Director, District and School Transformation Division
NC Department of Public Instruction

Dr. Mark Edwards
Mooresville Graded School District

Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.
Carolyn Hunt
Former Governor and First Lady of North Carolina

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