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Vol. 45, No. 55

July 29, 2011

State Will Honor 2011 Pioneers in Education on Monday

Five individuals will be recognized Monday for their exemplary contributions and commitment to public education in Missouri.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will formally recognize the 2011 Missouri Pioneers in Education at a luncheon in Columbia during the 50th annual state conference for school administrators.

The 2011 Pioneers are:

Thomas R. Davis, Kansas City, who served three consecutive terms as president of the Missouri State Board of Education and 19 years overall.  Davis was instrumental in working behind the scenes for passage of the Outstanding Schools Act by the Missouri General Assembly in 1993.  The National Association of State Boards of Education has called him “one of the most influential education leaders in Missouri history.”

Sanford N. McDonnell, St. Louis, who helped found the CHARACTERplus character-education program through the Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis.  CHARACTERplus reaches more than 350,000 students in hundreds of schools throughout Missouri.  He retired from McDonnell Douglas in 1988 after 40 years of service, including seven as chairman and chief executive officer.

Gary Sharpe, Jefferson City, who served as executive director of the Missouri Council of School Administrators from 1988 to 2007.  A teacher, coach and school administrator, Sharpe also served for eight years in the Missouri House of Representatives where he earned a reputation as a strong advocate for public schools.

James W. Sucharski, Hillsboro, whose 39-year career in education included service as superintendent for the Bismarck, Hillsboro and Bayless school districts and the Missouri School for the Blind.  He helped pass bond issues and spearheaded school renovations for his districts.  He also led Bayless from near unaccredited status to accreditation with distinction from 1996 to 2001.  Sucharski still teaches graduate courses at Missouri Baptist University.

Jerry W. Valentine, Columbia, who spent more than three decades as a professor at the University of Missouri.  While at MU, Valentine conducted research into “middle-level” education (a term he coined) that produced six books and influenced schools throughout the nation.  He collaborated with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on several projects, serving as chair and facilitator for multiple task forces for three different commissioners.

State education officials have presented this honor annually since 1974, recognizing teachers, school administrators, citizens and lawmakers for distinguished careers and dedication to Missouri public education.

Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro and State Board President Peter F. Herschend will present the awards.