A business leader with a heart for education has been honored with the 2014 Friend of Education Award by the Kentucky School Boards Association.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson, who most recently barnstormed the state with Education Commissioner Terry Holliday to raise awareness and support for the Common Core State Standards, was presented with the award Friday, Jan. 31, during KSBA’s annual conference in Louisville.
In accepting the award, Adkisson noted the progress Kentucky has made in education in the last two decades, saying the state has moved from the basement “up into the middle of the pack on so many of the rankings.”
PHOTO: Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson, center, is presented the 2014 KSBA Friend of Education Award by KSBA Interim Executive Director David Baird, left, and KSBA President Durward Narramore.
“We’ve got a lot more to do, but we hope the business community will be your supporters and your partners from here on out. Let’s improve as much in the next 20 years as we have in the last 20 years,” he said.
Adkisson has headed the Kentucky Chamber since 2005, leading its board to make improving education in the state its No. 1 priority and to become more proactive in shaping education policy.
Among those efforts were the chamber’s adoption that same year of many legislative goals set by the Business Forum for Education and its partnering with Amazon.com on a drive that resulted in the awarding of more than 2,000 GEDs to Kentuckians.
Adkisson also actively supported legislation in 2006 that required greater accountability in the ACT and WorkKeys exams, additional school days and preschool expansion. He advocated creation of the Index of Educational Progress, which combines multiple educational attainment and achievement factors into a single index, now administered through the University of Kentucky.
Because of the chamber’s more prominent education profile, Kentucky’s university presidents asked the group in 2007 to conduct an independent study, mandated by the legislature, of higher education progress in the state. In 2009, under Adkisson’s leadership, the chamber issued its Leaky Bucket report, highlighting to Kentucky lawmakers that unsustainable growth in pensions, corrections and Medicaid was robbing education of much-needed funds. A follow-up report in 2011 continued the focus on education funding.
Adkisson was the driving force behind creation of the Leadership Institute for School Principals, which accepted its first class of 48 principals in 2011. The institute provides participants with free, year-long, personal, executive leadership training. The program, which has benefited more than 200 principals, is supported financially by the business community.
When the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the Kentucky Chamber a $500,000 grant in 2012 to bolster business support for the Common Core State Standards, Adkisson joined Holliday on a statewide tour to explain the standards. During their travels, they distributed 10,000 business education kits, which later became a model for similar campaigns in other states. As part of that effort, the chamber also recruited 85 business leaders to join Business Advocates for Education, which supported more rigorous standards.
Adkisson was nominated for the Friend of Education Award by the Owensboro Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake. That area of the state benefited from Adkisson’s education efforts when he served as CEO of the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce in the 1990s. While working there, he helped found the Regional Alliance for Education, a P-16 council, and, as Owensboro’s mayor, led a group that worked on expanding Owensboro Community and Technical College.
Adkisson serves as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Education, Employment and Training Policy Committee, is a founding board member of the Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, a former chairman of the Kentucky Advocates for Higher Education and serves on the Dean’s Leadership Council at Harvard University. An Owensboro native, he is a Georgetown College alumnus and holds a master’s degree from Harvard.