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AASA Honors Veteran Educators for Distinguished Service at National Conference on Education

Nashville, Tenn. – AASA, The School Superintendents Association, honored four outstanding educators today, including the immediate past president of the association, with its Distinguished Service Awards. A ceremony to recognize these individuals was held at AASA’s National Conference on Education in Nashville, Tenn.

The conference is also serving as a platform to highlight AASA’s I Love Public Education campaign, a yearlong initiative designed to highlight why public schools are essential to developing the future generations who will maintain our country’s status as a world leader.

These educational leaders are recognized by AASA for bringing honor to themselves, their colleagues and their profession; rendering exemplary service to their state or national professional association; and contributing to the education field through writing, public advocacy or other activities.

The 2018 recipients are:

Tacy Ashby

Tacy Ashby currently serves as the senior vice president of strategic educational alliances at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. In that role, she has helped the university become a leader in providing programs for K-12 outreach and support. She retired as superintendent of public instruction for the Arizona Department of Education. A passionate education advocate, Ashby has also been a teacher, national Blue Ribbon School principal and university professor. She has used her expertise and collaborative skills to advance school administration success and leadership development through initiation of the Arizona LEADS project at the ADE and the Arizona Superintendents Collaborative Network at GCU, supporting new Arizona superintendents with training and mentors.

Alton Frailey

Alton Frailey is a 33-year veteran professional educator. Frailey retired in 2016 after serving as superintendent of the nearly 74,000-student Katy Independent School District near Houston, Texas, for nine years. He has served as superintendent of the DeSoto Independent School District near Dallas and as superintendent of schools for Cincinnati Public Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. Frailey began his career working with special needs and elementary-aged students in Baytown, Texas. He served as a building principal and in various central office positions in the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston. Frailey has held numerous professional elected leadership positions, including president of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, president of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), president of the Urban Superintendents Association of America (USAA) and president of the Texas Association of Suburban/Mid-Urban Schools (TAS-MUS). He has served on numerous civic boards and, in 1999, was elected to the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District Board of Trustees, which was selected as the 2002 Texas Honor Board. In 2015, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott appointed Frailey to the Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents for a six-year term.

Darlene Pierce

Darlene Pierce began her education career teaching the second-grade children of migrant workers in West Sacramento, Calif. After raising a family, she took over as director for the National Teacher of the Year Program at the Council of Chief State School Officers from 1981-1990, boosting the award ceremony from a low-key, inner office presentation to the national stage of the White House Rose Garden, with the award first presented by the First Lady and then the U.S. President. In 1987, she moved to AASA, where she helped develop the National Superintendent of the Year Program and served as director of the program until 2009. During her 30-plus years at AASA, she served as special projects manager, director of the award and recognition programs, associate director of AASA’s leadership for learning foundation and director of development. During more than 40 years of service in public education, she has served on numerous selection committees, including the Disney Salute to the American Teacher. She also helped establish the Teacher of the Year Program in the former Soviet Union (still going on in Russia), as well as a teacher recognition program in Japan.

Jerry Weast

A veteran of education leadership, including 35 years as a superintendent of school districts in five states, Jerry Weast is committed to ensuring all students graduate prepared and inspired for success in college and careers. He is founder and president of the Partnership for Deliberate Excellence, through which he works with school districts across the United States to improve the leadership and quality of public education. Weast’s groundbreaking approaches to improving public education are the subjects of case studies by the Harvard Business School, the Pew Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development, the Panasonic Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and of the book “Leading for Equity.” Weast led Montgomery County Public Schools to achieve the highest graduation rate among the nation’s largest school districts for four consecutive years and the highest academic performance ever in MCPS as the non-English-speaking student population more than doubled and enrollment tipped toward low socioeconomic demographics. During his tenure, MCPS received the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for management excellence and was a 2010 finalist for the Broad Prize in Urban Education.

Jane Westerhold

Jane Westerhold has been an educator for more than 40 years. She retired from Community Consolidated School District 62 in Des Plaines, Ill., in 2016 after serving as superintendent for 11 years. One of her many major accomplishments was overseeing the successful completion and opening of a comprehensive early learning center, which was named in her honor in 2015 as the Jane L. Westerhold Early Learning Center. Westerhold is also passionate about preparing students to be globally competitive and became the driving force behind the digital transformation in teaching and learning in District 62. She has served many community and educational organizations. She was the 2015 president of IASA, served on the AASA Governing Board, serves on the National Board for NCERT and is a past executive committee member for DALI. In addition to being named Illinois Superintendent of the Year in 2013, her other honors include the Illinois “Those Who Excel” Award of Excellence (2013), the School Business Officials Presidential Award (2015) and the Illinois National School Public Relations Association Distinguished Service Award (2013).

About AASA

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit

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