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Press Release

Friday, October 15, 2010

DOE Press Office
(850) 245-0413

State Board of Education Chairman Receives National Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education

~ Chairman Fair’s longstanding commitment to improved educational outcomes for all students receives national recognition ~

SALT LAKE CITY – The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) will award Florida State Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair with its 2010 Distinguished Service Award tonight during the NASBE conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The national honor is given annually to members of state boards of education in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments in service to public education.

“For nearly eight years T. Willard Fair has been a champion in making Florida education results happen,” said State Board Member Kathleen Shanahan. “The thousands of children, especially Hispanic and African-American children, who can now read at grade level, understand math and graduate from high school all owe him a debt of gratitude for his service. I am honored to have served with him and call him my friend.”

“Mr. Fair’s commitment to educational reform and his tireless pursuit of accountability are inspiring to educators and policy makers all over Florida,” said State Board Member Dr. Akshay Desai.

“Mr. Fair's work has had a tremendous positive impact on Florida’s students and his leadership on the State Board of Education has been invaluable,” said State Board Member John Padget.

"Chairman Fair is a bold and courageous voice for our young people. He believes in the American dream-and how it can be available to all boys and girls through strong and effective education," said State Board Member Susan Story.

“For decades, T. Willard Fair has led selflessly to improve opportunities for Florida’s children,” said State Board Member Mark Kaplan. “I am excited for Chairman Fair and for our state that he is being honored.”

Chairman Fair was appointed to Florida’s State Board of Education in 2003, and was selected to serve as Chairman in 2006. During his tenure on the Board he has worked tirelessly to ensure all students receive a quality educational experience that prepares them for success in today’s global marketplace. His leadership has helped to create a decade of academic progress for the state, resulting in rising academic performance for all students, closing achievement gaps among minority and White students, record levels of student participation in rigorous coursework, and a graduation rate that has reached its highest point ever.

He also continues to be a champion of school choice for Florida’s parents and students. In partnership with former Governor Jeb Bush, Chairman Fair nurtured Florida’s successful charter school movement, helping to grow the number of charter schools from five in 1996, to 459 today. Thanks to his efforts, approximately 150,000 students are currently taking advantage of learning environments more tailored to their specific academic needs.

Chairman Fair currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc., where he has led improvement efforts in his community since 1963. He has also served as an adjunct professor at the Atlanta University School of Social Work, Bethune Cookman College, Florida International University, and the National Urban League's Whitney M. Young, Jr., Center for Urban Leadership.

NASBE represents America’s state and territorial boards of education, and exists to strengthen State Boards as the preeminent educational policymaking bodies for citizens and students. For more information about NASBE, visit

“Chairman Fair’s leadership has helped to transform our state’s education system into a model for the nation; one where every student’s learning potential is recognized and each child is given the chance to pursue their dreams,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. “His life-long work to help children build successful futures is driven by a deep sense of passion and determination, and I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for such a distinguished national award.”