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Legacy Award Presented to Council Executive Director for his 44 Years of Service

  • Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, received the first-ever Dr. Michael Casserly Legacy Award for Educational Courage and Justice at the Council’s virtual Legislative/Policy Conference.

    Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presented the award to Casserly during a virtual award ceremony held last month honoring Casserly’s achievements in urban education. 

    Casserly took the reins of the Council in January 1992 after serving as the group’s director of legislation and research for fifteen years. He is now believed to be the longest-serving chief among the major national education membership organizations. 

    The Dr. Michael Casserly Legacy Award for Educational Courage and Justice will be presented annually to a person who has made outstanding contributions in the field of K-12 urban education. Future recipients will be chosen for personifying what Casserly has based his career on: taking a courageous and passionate stance on the issue of educational justice and equity.

    The award comes with a $10,000 scholarship sponsored by Curriculum Associates. The scholarship is for a graduate from one of the Council’s 77-member school districts pursuing a graduate-level degree in education, and the award recipient will select the scholarship recipient. 

    “I am honored and deeply touched that this award has been named in my honor and I want to thank Curriculum Associates for their generosity,” said Council Executive Michael Casserly. “I have devoted my 44-year career at the Council to improving education for children in the nation’s cities and fighting for equity and the critical resources our urban schools need to help the students they serve meet the highest academic standards and become successful and productive members of society. So, it is wonderful that a $10,0000 scholarship will go to someone who is following in my footsteps. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” 

    The history of the Council under Casserly’s leadership includes numerous examples of the organization staking out positions that are often cutting-edge and potentially controversial for a national coalition.

    Casserly was the only head of a national education organization to support the 2002 No Child Left Behind legislation, doing so because of its emphasis on closing achievement gaps for specific at-risk student groups. The law was enacted under Education Secretary Rod Paige.

    The Council also played a major role in initiating what became known as the Common Core State Standards, and was the first national membership group to endorse them.

    “For more than 40 years, Michael Casserly has diligently worked to improve public education for the nation’s urban school children,” said Michael O’Neill, chair of the board of the Council. “His contributions have led to some of the most significant legislative actions and best practices in urban public schools; and he has earned a well-deserved national and international reputation as a thoughtful, committed, data-driven and bipartisan leader. So, it is only fitting that Dr. Casserly be the first recipient — and namesake — of this new award. We are profoundly grateful for his fearless, tireless and courageous leadership; and we are honored to celebrate his legacy.”

    After more than 30 years as executive director of the Council, Casserly will step aside at the end of June 2021, and Ray Hart, the Council’s research director, will assume the role. Casserly will then assume the role of Strategic Advisor through 2024.