Monday, June 4, Phillip "Phil" J. Kirk, Jr. was named the seventh recipient of the Jay Robinson Leadership Award given by the Public School Forum of NC. A $5,000 cash prize was given by BB&T and an anonymous donor. The award honors the extraordinary leadership and service of Dr. Jay Robinson, former school superintendent and State Board of Education Chair.
Phil Kirk's rich career ranges from radio announcer, newspaper reporter, teacher, state senator, secretary of the Department of Human Resources, chief of staff and administrative assistant to two governors, and head of the state's chamber of commerce where he also served as publisher of NC Magazine. Phil followed Jay Robinson as Chair of the State Board of Education and served for six years in that role. He is currently the Vice-President of External Relations, Catawba College where he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws.
Phil's service on boards and commission is lengthy as is the list of his many honors. Phil's devotion and commitment to a strong system of public education has always permeated his decisions. He was particularly deft at convincing the business community in North Carolina that strong public schools were an economic development issue and that corporate North Carolina should be at the table as stakeholders when issues affecting public schools were being addressed. Erskine Bowles, President, UNC System, wrote in his endorsement of Phil, "Phil has been preaching the connection between quality public education and economic development long before most of us fully understood the implications of a knowledge-based global economy. He has spent most of 40 years working on multiple fronts to improve our schools. Balancing public school funding needs with the interests of the business community took diplomacy and courage but Phil never hesitated to do the right thing for our children."
Former Representative Gene Arnold, chair of the Jay Robinson Leadership Award Committee, commented that Phil Kirk, like Jay Robinson, was deeply committed to helping all children achieve higher levels of performance. He said of Phil, "Phil persevered as Jay would have done to see that all children have equal opportunities and that resources, both instructional and financial, are provided to assist them in the learning process. Jay was instrumental in Phil's choice as State Board Chair, knowing that he would do everything he could to bring North Carolina school system to the highest level of achievement."
Senator Katie Dorsett, Chair of the Forum Board, added, "Phil Kirk has remained focused on very ambitious instructional goals for all students in North Carolina. He gave strong leadership to the ABCs program and to high standards. He has given strong leadership throughout his career to provide the best possible education for all our children."
In addition to Phil Kirk, the other finalists for this year's award were Dr. Terry Holliday, Superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools and Dr. Anthony Parker, Superintendent of Johnston County Schools. Each of the finalists is an exemplary education leader in North Carolina and each embodies the leadership traits personified by Dr. Jay Robinson.
The award was created to honor Dr. Jay Robinson, a distinguished educator, UNC Vice-President, and former Chairman of the State Board of Education, best remembered as the architect of the state's ABCs accountability plan. Previous award winners include Laura Bilbro-Berry, 2000 NC Teacher of the Year, a NC Teaching Fellow and currently Director of Federal Programs, Beaufort County Schools, Dr. Tom McNeel, retired Superintendent of Caldwell County Schools; Dr. Jim Causby, former Superintendent of Johnston County Schools and currently Executive Director of the North Carolina School Administrators Association, Dr. Bob Bridges, former Superintendent of Wake County Schools and former chair of the Closing the Achievement Gap Commission, Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr., Resident Superior Court Judge in Wake County, and Dr. Ann Denlinger, former Superintendent of Durham County Schools and currently President, Wake Education Partnership.
Members of the Jay Robinson Leadership Award Committee, in addition to Gene Arnold, Chair; included Barbara Allen, Consultant; Margaret Hyatt, 2005 Wachovia Principal of the Year; Debra Horton, President NCPTA; Dr. Bob Bridges, Dr. Jim Causby; Dr. Ann Denlinger; Gerry Hancock, former Forum Board Chair; Kathy Taft, State Board of Education; Carr Thompson, Senior Program Officer, Burroughs Wellcome Fund; Richard Urquhart, Investment Management Corporation; and Rep. Doug Yongue.
;The Friday Report is published weekly by the Public School Forum of NC and is distributed to Forum Board members, legislators active in education policy, the press, and Forum subscribers. Archived editions can be found at www.ncforum.org/doclib .