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State Board Members Byron Ernest, Janet Cannon Named NASBE Chair and Chair-Elect


Alexandria, VA – The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to announce that Byron Ernest, a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, became chair of the organization’s board of directors at the close of its virtual annual conference last week. Janet Cannon, a member of the Utah State Board of Education, was elected to NASBE’s chair-elect and begins her term on the board immediately. Her term as chair of NASBE’s board of directors begins at the close of the 2021 Annual Conference.

Dr. Byron Ernest was appointed to the Indiana State Board of Education in 2015 by then-House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis). An active member of NASBE, Dr. Ernest previously served as NASBE’s new member representative and secretary-treasurer.

A former Indiana “Teacher of the Year” (2010), Dr. Ernest currently serves as director of educator development and partnerships for Noble Education Initiative Inc., where he does professional development in education and leadership globally. Previously, Dr. Ernest was head of schools for Hoosier Academies Network of Schools and principal of Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis after it was taken over by the state for receiving seven consecutive failing annual performance grades. As a principal, Dr. Ernest developed a new staff and culture of excellence focusing on high student achievement and performance. Indiana removed Manual High School from the “F” list under Dr. Ernest’s leadership.

While serving on the Indiana State Board of Education, Dr. Ernest worked with state House leadership and other stakeholders to craft and adopt new graduation pathways that moved the state away from having a single, statewide summative exam to determine whether or not a student is prepared for life after graduation. These pathways provide multiple options for students to demonstrate they are equipped for career success and postsecondary education and training. Indiana’s state board is responsible for the approval and implementation of the pathways and an innovative option for schools of Locally Created Pathways.

Upon accepting the gavel, Dr. Ernest expressed his gratitude to NASBE delegates and conference attendees, saying, “It is such an honor to be part of a community of citizen leaders who seek conversations by showing up through invitation rather than mandate, and the diverse gifts of each person are acknowledged and valued. Together we will answer the question, ‘What can we create together?’ so students of all backgrounds and circumstances are prepared to succeed in school, work, and life.”

Janet Cannon was first elected to the Utah State Board of Education in 1994, serving four terms through 2012, as vice chair for seven years. After a four-year hiatus, Cannon was elected to the board again in 2016 and now serves on her fifth term.

As a mother of five children, Cannon’s life-long mission is to be an advocate for children who continually advocates for improvements within the public education system. During her time on the state board, she served four years on the Utah State Board of Regents, was the governor’s appointee to the Utah College of Applied Technology Board, and was liaison between the state board of education and the Utah State Charter School Board. She also chaired the School and Instructional Trust Lands Nominating Committee, where she sought experts in oil, gas, mining, and real estate to help build a permanent fund that sends Trust Lands dollars to every school in Utah. During this time, distributions to schools grew from $8.3 million in 2004 to $45.8 in million in 2015.

A graduate of University of Utah, she is a certified a speech pathologist through the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. She also attended the University of Victoria in in British Columbia, Canada, and the University of Toulouse-Bordeaux in France.

Cannon previously was NASBE’s western area director and is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. “NASBE is a vital asset to state boards of education across the country,” she said. “I am honored to have an opportunity to serve in this great organization.”

“Byron and Janet are committed to NASBE’s focus as a member-led organization and in leading the board, will harness member engagement and state collaboration toward navigating the post-pandemic landscape for schools across the country,” said Robert Hull, NASBE president and CEO. “2021 promises to be a memorable and remarkable year under their leadership.”

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.

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