Dr. Harrison has served as a public school educator in North Carolina for more than 30 years. State Board of Education Chair Howard Lee said of Dr. Harrison in his endorsement letter, “Dr. Harrison’s dedication to education has extended beyond the school setting and into professional organizations, universities and public service. His service to each of these settings has been in the best interest of the rights of all children to a quality education. He has had a very public opportunity to demonstrate his courage while serving as superintendent of Hoke County Schools by supporting the filing of the now famous Leandro case (originally known as the Hoke County Lawsuit). Knowing the implications of such a suit regardless of the outcome, he never backed down from the position that all children need a level playing field to have an equal chance at success.” Dr. Randy Bridges, nominator, worked under Bill Harrison in two school systems and said of him, “Dr. Harrison is dedicated to all students and is a man of integrity and commitment.”
Former Representative Gene Arnold, chair of the Jay Robinson Leadership Award Committee, commented that Dr. Harrison, like Jay Robinson, was deeply committed to helping all children achieve higher levels of performance. He said of Dr. Harrison, “Bill has 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 as they strive to do their best. Having served as a mentor to Bill, Jay would have been very proud of him.”
Outgoing Chair of the Forum Board, Senator Katie Dorsett added, “Dr. Harrison has remained singly focused on very ambitious instructional goals for all students in every district that he has been in. He has also been a role model and mentor to numerous other educators on their leadership journeys.”
In addition to Dr. Harrison, the other finalists for this year’s award were William R. McNeal Jr., and William A. Shore. McNeal is currently executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators. Prior to this position, McNeal was Wake County Schools Superintendent and the Regional, State, and National Superintendent of the Year. Under his leadership, Wake County became known as a school system of exceptionally high standards. William A. Shore, director of U.S. Community Partnerships for GlaxoSmithKline, was for many years the manager of administrative services with the company. The award was created to honor Dr. Jay Robinson, a distinguished educator, University of North Carolina vice-president, and former chairman of the State Board of Education, best remembered as the architect of the state’s ABCs accountability plan. Previous award winners include Laura Bilbro-Berry, 2000 N.C. Teacher of the Year, a N.C. Teaching Fellow and currently coordinator of the Northeast Consortium for the Wachovia Partnership East at East Carolina University; Dr. Tom McNeel, former superintendent of Caldwell County Schools, now retired; Dr. Jim Causby, former superintendent of Johnston County Schools, executive director of the NCASA and currently executive director of the N.C .School Superintendents’ Association; Dr. Bob Bridges, former superintendent of Wake County Schools and former chair of the Closing the Achievement Gap Commission, now retired; Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr., Wake County Superior Court Judge presiding over the Leandro case; Dr. Ann Denlinger, former superintendent of Durham Public Schools, now president of the Wake Education Partnership; and Phillip J. Kirk Jr., former president of NCCBI and now vice-president for External Relations for Catawba College.