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Thomas Lay Burroughs Award

Burroughs Award goes to Grant Park School District 6 President

David Dickson, school board president of Grant Park School District 6, was named the winner of the 2014 Thomas Lay Burroughs Award.

The Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) Curt Bradshaw and Melinda LaBarre presented Dickson with the award on Nov. 23 during the final day of the IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference.

In introducing the Burroughs Award winner, Bradshaw noted, “You don’t see excellent school districts without excellent school boards.”

Dickson was nominated by Superintendent John Palan for the Burroughs Award, honoring the state’s top school board president. In the nomination letter, Palan cited Dickson’s vision, unique leadership, compassion and dedication as cornerstones to the improvement and success the district has enjoyed in recent years.

“Mr. Dickson has truly excelled in the role of board president, as his sole focus is centered on student learning,” Superintendent Palan wrote. “He is a committed board president who dedicates countless hours to ensure that Grant Park School District 6 students receive the best education possible.”

From early on, Dickson’s focus has been on student success. He has repeatedly affirmed his support for an administrative team that was committed to a culture of high expectations for students and staff by focusing on increasing student achievement and dedicating time and energy toward ensuring quality instruction in every District 6 classroom.

“We don’t get paid for this work. We do it because we love our districts and our kids,” Dickson said of school board members. “We hire the superintendent and we make policy. Then we let them do their jobs.”

Faced with difficult financial times during his tenure as board president, Dickson has been steadfast in his support for maintaining critical education programs. When Grant Park’s Pre-K program was faced with elimination due to budget pressures, Dickson was instrumental in forging a compromise that preserved the program, which he felt represented an extremely important commitment to student learning.

Under his leadership, the district has seen a steady upward trend in academic performance. In 2011, Grant Park High School saw below average performance on the PSAE (50 percent overall composite). By 2013, 73 percent of juniors met or exceeded PSAE composite. That same year the district received ISBE’s “Academic Improvement Award for Exemplary Gains in Performance on the Illinois Learning Standards” and was recognized as a “Top 50” high school by the Chicago Tribune.

Grant Park Middle School has also achieved academic accolades under Dickson’s leadership. With a growing low-income population and increasing mobility rate, the school has maintained a 90 percent average of meeting or exceeding standards in math and language arts.

Dickson has also been instrumental in ensuring students are prepared for Common Core standards. The district has spent the past three years putting in place curricular planning initiatives, and recently implemented monthly early dismissals to give teachers and administrators adequate time for planning, preparing and aligning existing curricular maps to the Common Core standards.

In accepting the award, Dickson thanked his family and the entire Grant Park district. “I accepted this award on behalf of the Grant Park School District administrators, students, teachers and parents. They deserve this award.”

Dickson has served eight years on the Grant Park School District 6 board, five of those as board president.

Grant Park District 6 is located in the Three Rivers division. The district educates students in grades Pre-K through 12, with an enrollment of 532 pupils in the current school year.

The Burroughs Award for extraordinary educational leadership was created in 1991 in memory of the late chairman of ISBE who also served as president of the Collinsville CUSD 10 board.


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