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The Public School Forum of North Carolina recently named Phil Kirk Jr. the seventh recipient of the Jay Robinson Leadership Award.
A $5,000 cash prize, donated by BB&T and an anonymous donor, goes with the award, which honors the leadership and service of Dr. Jay Robinson, former school superintendent and State Board of Education chairman.
Kirk’s career includes time spent as a 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.
Kirk followed Robinson as chairman of the State Board of Education and held that position for six years.
He now serves as vice president of external relations for Catawba College.
Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina System, endorsed Kirk for the award.
“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,” Bowles wrote.
“He has spent most of 40 years working on multiple fronts to improve our schools,” Bowles continued in his endorsement. “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 Rep. Gene Arnold, who served as chairman of the Jay Robinson Leadership Award Committee, said Kirk was committed to helping all children achieve higher levels of performance.
“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,” Arnold said. “Jay was instrumental in Phil’s choice as state board chair, knowing that he would do everything he could to bring the North Carolina school system to the highest level of achievement.”
Sen. Katie Dorsett, chairwoman 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.”
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.
Besides Arnold, other members of the Robinson Award Committee included Barbara Allen, consultant; Margaret Hyatt, 2005 Wachovia Principal of the Year; Debra Horton, president of the N.C. Parent Teacher Association; Dr. Bob Bridges; Dr. Jim Causby; Dr. Ann Denlinger; Gerry Hancock, former chairman of the Forum board; Kathy Taft, a member of the State Board of Education; Carr Thompson, senior program officer for Burroughs Wellcome Fund; Richard Urquhart, Investment Management Corp.; and Rep. Doug Yongue.

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