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State Board of Education Members Jay Barth, Molly O’Holleran, and Connie Fletcher Receive National Public Service Award

Alexandria, Va.—The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to announce that state education leaders from Arkansas, Nebraska, and Washington are recipients of NASBE’s 2019 Distinguished Service Award. This national award honors current and former state board members who have made exceptional contributions to education. It is given to three outstanding leaders each year and is the highest award NASBE can bestow on a state board of education member.

Jay Barth just completed a seven-year term on the Arkansas State Board of Education and was its chair for two years. Barth led Arkansas’s effort to adopt next-generation science standards and championed reform of discipline practices, which culminated in state legislation to promote restorative practices. Barth headed NASBE’s board of directors in 2017.

“Jay was instrumental in uniting the board during a politically contentious period,” said Brenda Gullet, a former Arkansas state board member who nominated Barth. “The board functions better as a result of his efforts to revise board operating procedures, and he helped the board see the value in engaging families and the community in policymaking efforts. He is forever a champion for children, and his service to the Arkansas state board will have a lasting impact on every student in our state.”

Barth is the M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Professor of Politics and director of the Arkansas Policy Program at Hendrix College and has received numerous awards for his research and teaching, which focuses on the politics of the South, state government and politics, LGBT politics, political communication, and the achievement gap in Arkansas.

Molly O’Holleran was elected to the Nebraska State Board of Education in 2010, serving on the board for eight years. O’Holleran served twice on NASBE’s nominations committee, and for six years, the Government Affairs Committee, which she chaired in 2015. As chair of the Nebraska state board’s AQuESTT Student Success, Access, and Support committee, O’Holleran promoted community partnerships, relationships, and successes, and she focused the committee’s efforts on student transitions and expanding educational opportunities and access for all Nebraskans. She stressed the need for the board’s strategic plan and vision to align with the framework and goals of AQuESTT, resulting in common language across education agencies and among educators and other partners.

O’Holleran has long been an active community member, serving on several boards and committees. Most recently, she joined the board of directors for the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, supporting children, young adults, and families at risk, with the goal of giving the state’s most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their potential.

“Molly is a champion for education, health, and culture in her community, state, and the nation,” said Nebraska State Board Chair John Witzel, who nominated O’Holleran. “Molly has always had faith that by working together, we can increase student achievement, support outstanding teachers, and prepare students for college, careers, and civic life. Her leadership and collaborative spirit on the Nebraska state board exemplified this.”

Connie Fletcher completed her second term on the Washington State Board of Education this year after serving for 10 years. Fletcher also served two terms as western area director on NASBE’s board of directors and chaired the Government Affairs Committee.

During Fletcher’s tenure on the Washington State board, she focused on the accountability system and revising standards in math, social studies, English, and the arts. Under her direction, the board developed the High School and Beyond Plan to give students greater flexibility in pursuing graduation paths aligned to their goals. Fletcher encouraged young people’s civic engagement and service and took great pride in mentoring student board members.

“High standards and equity were key drivers of Connie’s leadership on the board. She was instrumental in the major work of our state board over the past decade,” said Washington state board chair Kevin Laverty. “She brought an exceptional understanding of the impact of state and national education policies on local school districts and students. She consistently kept students in focus, as well as the teachers and educators who work directly with students every day.”

Fletcher has consulted for nonprofit organizations, municipalities, and school districts in good governance, planning, and major gifts fundraising. She served on the Issaquah School Board and was president of the Washington State Association School Directors Association. Under her leadership, the WSSDA published Closing the Achievement Gap, A Policy Action Guide for Washington State’s School Directors, one of the first publications of its kind.  She worked for the City of Seattle and for two United Way organizations and sits on several other boards.

“As state board members, Jay, Molly, and Connie exemplified what it means to be the citizen’s voice in education. During their board service, each of them kept equity and excellence at the center of their work, and students in Arkansas, Nebraska, and Washington will benefit from their contributions for years to come,” said NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull.

The 2019 Distinguished Service Awards will be presented October 17 at NASBE’s annual conference in Omaha, Nebraska.

For 60 years, NASBE has served 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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