Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt and Late State Superintendent Brian Whiston of Michigan Honored as NASBE Policy Leaders of the Year

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Alexandria, VA—The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) honors Dr. Matthew Blomstedt, commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Education, and Brian Whiston, the late state superintendent of Michigan, as its 2018 Policy Leaders of the Year. The award is given to national or state policymakers each year in recognition of their contributions to education.

Blomstedt has served as commissioner since 2014. He has influenced critical statewide policy issues affecting Nebraska’s education system. He has applied 20 years of experience to improving educational finance and organization, assessment and accountability, and professional development and developing systems to enhance blended and distance learning opportunities across the state.

Together with the Nebraska State Board of Education, he designed and implemented AQuESTT, Nebraska’s new statewide school accountability system; implemented a 10-year strategic plan shared by the state board and the Nebraska Department of Education; and designed and implemented the statewide, multiple-measure Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System.

“K-12 education in Nebraska is moving forward with great expectations and enthusiasm due to Dr. Blomstedt’s leadership,” said Nebraska State Board of Education President John Witzel. “He has had the experience and vision to lead the state to greater achievement and opportunities for all Nebraska students.

Blomstedt’s relationships and engagement with stakeholders from all sides of the political spectrum have advanced dialogue and joint efforts on educational programs and policy. Blomstedt also developed an advisory committee of school superintendents to get input on key educational topics.

“The state’s incredible success is also due to his thorough understanding of the critical importance of first-class education policies that affect all stakeholders in Nebraska,” Witzel said. “From the governor to parents in a local school district, Dr. Blomstedt is always accessible and engaged.”

“I am honored to be selected as one of NASBE’s Policy Leaders of the Year,” said Blomstedt. “I am humbled to know the Nebraska state board saw fit to nominate me when it is truly our collective efforts of board and agency staff to align vision, direction, and leadership. We are proud of the accomplishments to shape system-level reforms that will impact generations of students in Nebraska and live up to our mission to lead and support the preparation of all Nebraskans for learning, earning, and living.”

Brian Whiston was Michigan’s state superintendent from 2015 until his passing earlier this year after a courageous battle with cancer. Previously, he was superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools, director of government and community services for the Oakland County Intermediate School District in Michigan, a local school board member, and president-elect and treasurer of the Michigan Parent Teacher Student Association. He also served on the American Association of School Administrators Governing Board.

In Oakland County, he worked with state government to bring financial resources to schools, led for improved student achievement, and helped make all schools in the county successful. At Dearborn, Whiston’s collaborative model led to a focus on elementary-grade math, reading, and writing to raise student achievement and on preparing students in grades 6 through 12 for postsecondary education or training, meeting graduation requirements, and keeping pace with technology.

Whiston led the effort to develop and gain approval for Michigan’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). He was the architect of the Partnership District Model, in which schools negotiated agreements with local universities, community groups, and businesses to improve instruction in the state’s most struggling schools. Whiston also established the Collegiate Academy, a program at each of Dearborn’s three high schools that offers students the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in five years, with all costs covered by the district.

He was admired as a selfless leader who included everyone in policymaking decisions and planning, believing in the importance of getting input from all sides. Under Whiston’s leadership, Michigan efforts to engage stakeholders in the development of its ESSA plan were held up as a model by national organizations including the Council of Chief State School Officers, National PTA, and Education Week.

“We are deeply grateful to have NASBE acknowledge the gifts, work, achievements, and untimely passing of State Superintendent Brian Whiston,” said Michigan State Board of Education Co-Presidents Casandra Ulbrich and Richard Zeile. “He was always focused on doing what is best for the children of Michigan. The abilities that enabled him to lead our diverse school districts through challenging times were manifest in his leadership of Michigan and the goal to make our state a top 10 education state in 10 years. His greatest regret was that his illness forced him to leave off the work just as it was bearing fruit. His example of positive, constructive leadership that brought out the best in his team will continue to inspire education leaders.”

“The Policy Leader of the Year award is the highest honor that state board of education members can bestow,” said NASBE President and CEO Kristen Amundson. “Dr. Blomstedt’s engagement with stakeholders and thoughtful, collaborative approach to policymaking is a model for all policymakers. We are also proud to honor the legacy of Mr. Whiston, who devoted his life to public service and who built relationships with stakeholders and fostered new strategies that made a real difference for Michigan students.”

The 2018 Policy Leader of the Year award will be presented at NASBE’s national conference in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about the conference.

NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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