Kentucky Board of Education

Kentucky Board of Education Awards

Published: 10/20/2023 10:58 AM

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) recognizes educators, organizations, and education stakeholders on an annual basis. The awards, now aligned to the vision, missions and strategic priorities of the KBE and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), aim to honor the work and legacy of previous board members while at the same time recognizing current educators, organizations and stakeholders for extraordinary work and contributions in in the following areas:

  • Diversity and Equity in Public Education
  • Excellence in Education Policy
  • Innovation in Special Education
  • Business and Education Partnerships
  • KBE Strategic Priority 
One KBE award will be presented at each board meeting, with the exception of December, when the KDE will present its annual staff award.​


2023 Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award

 Criteria for the award include:

The criteria for the award includes significant contributions and/or other efforts to support the successful adoption and implementation of a portrait of a learner by co-creating with communities a set of competencies for all learners, development of a performance assessment system, provision of deeper learning opportunities for all students and educators, and adoption of local policies to support deeper learning instruction and assessment.

Nominations are open through November 17, 2023

​Awards and Background Information

Photo of Samuel Robinson
Robinson Award for Diversity and Equity in Public Education

​Dr. Samuel Robinson was a former member of the KBE (1991-2004) who made diversity and equity in public education his life's work. A noted educator and civil rights leader, Robinson began his career in Kentucky in Louisville in 1960. His diverse background in public education included everything from principal at Shawnee High School to President of the Lincoln Foundation. Robinson also was a well-known community figure as Louisville navigated the Civil Rights era.

Each year, the KBE grants this award to a Kentuckian or a Kentucky organization demonstrating extraordinary efforts and contributions in the area of educational diversity and equity. The criteria for receiving this award includes, but is not limited to:

  • Successful efforts in closing socioeconomic and/or racial achievement gaps; and,
  • Significantly improving student learning, student achievement, or other measured outcomes among students of color or economically disadvantaged students.
Nomination window: December - January
Award presented: April

Photo of David Karem
Karem Award for Excellence in Education Policy


David Karem served on the KBE from 2009 through 2016. He served for 33 years in the Kentucky State Senate and as Chair of the Senate Education Committee. During his tenure in the Kentucky General Assembly, Karem championed the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) and led the efforts for the 4% school tax levy by school districts. This award is given in the spring of each year to state policymakers, education leaders or citizens who have made notable, state-level contributions to the improvement of Kentucky's public education system. 

Criteria for the award includes:

  • Demonstrated leadership in policy development, passage or implementation resulting in increased educational opportunities for students; improved educational, postsecondary or workforce outcomes for students; or, increased capacity of teachers or school staff to better meet the academic, social or emotional needs of Kentucky students. 

Nomination window: February - March

Award presented: June


​Grissom Award for Innovation in Special Education

The late Dr. Johnnie Grissom served at the KDE in the role of Associate Commissioner for the Office of Special Instructional Services. She provided steadfast commitment, service and leadership striving to help all students achieve at high levels regardless of their disabilities. This award is given in the spring of each year to a Kentuckian or a Kentucky organization to honor outstanding dedication to improving student achievement for students with disabilities. 

Criteria for the award include:

  • Leadership or implementation of innovative practice in curriculum, instruction or assessment that leads to improved learning, postsecondary or workforce outcomes for students with learning or behavior differences; and,

  • District or schools demonstrating significant improvement or sustained excellence in learning or behavior outcomes for students with learning or behavior differences.

Nomination window: April - May
Award presented: August


Photo of Joseph Kelly
Kelly Award for Business and Education Partnership

​Joseph W. Kelly served as a member of the​ KBE from 1989 until 1998 and provided exceptional leadership as its chair for seven years. He was a strong leader in the fundamental early years of implementing Kentucky's nationally recognized school improvement efforts.

A respected business leader and education advocate, Kelly knew first-hand the critical role the business community plays in supporting Kentucky's public education system. His career exemplifies the significant contributions that members of the business community are making in support of Kentucky's students. This award is given in the fall of each year to a Kentucky businessperson or business who has partnered with a public school or district to provide outstanding leadership that promotes school improvement and student success.

Criteria for the award include:

  • Creating or sustaining strategic partnership between a business and school or district that leads to improved student outcomes, including but not limited to, postsecondary success and workforce outcomes; and,
  • Significant contribution to a school or a district that leads or will likely lead to increased or improved educational opportunities or improved educational, postsecondary or workforce outcomes for students.

Nomination window: June - July
Award presented: October


Photo of Kevin C. Brown
KBE Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award

Kevin C. Brown served at the KDE in various roles from 2004 to 2018. Most recently, Brown served as the Interim Commissioner of Education from December 2019 to September 2020.

Brown's time at the department throughout 2020 was marked with significant challenges that called for strategic educational leadership and clear ongoing communication that was forward-thinking, action-oriented and aimed at advancing efforts to educate, feed and support Kentucky's 650,000 students during a global pandemic.

​The strategic priority changes from year to year based on the desire of the KBE.

Nomination window: October - November
Award presented: February

KBE Award Picture


​Stacy Ball
Executive Secretary/Scheduler
Office of the Commissioner of Education
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-3141 Ext. 4801
Fax (502) 564-5680
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