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Legacy Award Presented to Council Executive Director

March 22, 2021

Tonya Harris at:

Legacy Award Presented to Council Executive Director
For His 44 Years of Service in Urban Education
$10,000 Scholarship Comes with the Award

WASHINGTON, March 31 – 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 Legislative/Policy Conference.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presented the award to Casserly during a virtual award ceremony 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 of the Council’s 77-member school districts pursuing a graduate-level degree in education, and the award recipient will select the scholarship winner.

The history of the Council under Dr. Casserly’s leadership includes numerous examples of the organization staking out positions that are often cutting-edge and potentially controversial for a national coalition, but are always focused on a moral core that puts first all of the 8.4 million youth that the Council collectively serves. 

Dr. 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 CGCS. “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 to CGCS through 2024.