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NASBE Membership Elects New Leaders to Its Board of Directors


Alexandria, Va. — The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to announce the election of five new members to its board of directors. Janet Cannon, a member of the Utah State Board of Education, became NASBE’s board chair at the close of the organization’s virtual Annual Conference and business meeting last October. Christine Benson, a member of the Illinois State Board of Education, was voted NASBE’s chair-elect and begins her term on the board immediately. Benson previously served as Central Area director and will begin to serve as NASBE’s board chair at the close of its 2022 Annual Conference next October. Fern Desjardins, chair of the Maine State Board of Education, was elected secretary-treasurer for a two-year term. She previously served as new member representative.

The membership also elected regional and affiliate officers to NASBE’s 2021–22 board.

  • Elwood (Woody) Exley, Jr., Connecticut (Northeastern Area director, two-year term)
  • Pamela Pugh, Michigan (Central Area director, one-year term)
  • Patti Gubbels, Nebraska (New Member Representative, one-year term)
  • Julie Tolleson, Colorado (NCOSEA representative, one-year term)
  • John-Paul Hayworth, District of Columbia (NCSBEE representative, two-year term)

This group will join Ronald McNinch of Guam, who is completing his final year as Western Area director, and immediate past-chair Byron Ernest. Arkansas’s Sarah Moore was elected to serve a second term as Southern Area director.

“Being involved with the National Association of State Boards of Education has been the most enriching experience I’ve had as a state board member. It is thrilling to have the opportunity to lead NASBE members from across the country,” said NASBE Chair Janet Cannon. I look forward to engaging with our diverse membership and increasing NASBE’s nonpartisan collaboration across states and territories to ensure all children the best possible education.”

“State boards of education are currently facing the challenges of a lifetime,” said NASBE Chair-Elect Christine Benson. “NASBE offers board leaders from across the country the opportunity to connect on critical issues of education equity, social-emotional well-being, early childhood, and learning recovery. I am honored to serve as chair-elect and to help state boards across the country make the tough decisions needed to support all students. I aspire for NASBE to continue to grow in understanding of its past, its viability, and its work for the future.”

“NASBE’s board of directors plays an important role in helping the organization achieve its mission of developing, supporting, and empowering state boards to fully embrace their role as citizen leaders,” said NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull. “This board is primed to work closely with incoming President and CEO Paolo DeMaria to expand the robust work of developing state boards’ capacity to lead in these important times of high needs and unprecedented resources.”

NASBE’s membership also approved an update to its public education positions during its annual business meeting.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at


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