Tom Shortt, former director of the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, received the 2011 Jo Lynne DeMary Award at the William & Mary School of Education Thursday morning.
The award, which is presented for distinguished leadership and significant professional contributions in education, was presented to Shortt during the School of Education’s annual Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership alumni breakfast.
“To be honored by such a prestigious institution, it’s surely the capstone of my career, and I appreciate it so much,” Shortt said.
A graduate of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, Shortt has served as a teacher and principal, and he has worked in various roles in the central offices of school districts across the state. In 1994, he took on the role of director of secondary instruction at the Virginia Department of Education, and, three years later, he was promoted to assistant superintendent of policy and public affairs. In 1998, at the request of the state superintendent and state board of education, he created the Department of Education’s Department of Accountability, which is charged with monitoring public schools’ compliance with the state’s standards of accreditation reform. Two years later, Shortt was appointed as the executive director of the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals. He has served with several other groups, including the executive committees of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, the Virginia High School League, and the Virginia Middle School Association. He has also written on numerous educational topics and is well known for his research on block scheduling and its impact on student achievement.
Shortt said he has learned much from the people he’s interacted with throughout his career, including many of the people who attended the breakfast. But, he said, he learned more than anything from his students.
“They’re the ones that will tell you what the real world is all about if you listen to them,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the question is, they’ll give you the answer.”
After accepting the DeMary Award from Chancellor Professor of Education Michael DiPaola, Shortt said he wanted to share the honor with everyone he’s worked with through the years.
“This is not about me at all,” he said. “It’s all about the people I’ve met along the way who have said, ‘Tom, you need to do this.’ Not always agreeing with them, not always agreeing with what needed to be done, but coming together in the end, bringing it together and saying, ‘Yep, this is what we’ve got to do.’”
Approximately 40 people attended the breakfast, including faculty and staff from the School of Education as well as alumni of the school’s Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership program who now serve at institutions and school districts across the state.
“Since its inception, this event has been an opportunity for us to connect with our alumni and also in more recent years to recognize the leadership of education in the state of Virginia,” said Professor of Education Brenda Williams.
This is the 10th year that an alumni leadership award has been presented by the School of Education. In 2006, the award was named for Jo Lynne DeMary ’68, the first woman to hold the position of state superintendent of schools.
DeMary was among the alumni who attended the event, which for the first time was held in the School of Education’s new building. Dean Virginia McLaughlin joked that in years past, her role at the breakfast was to tell alumni what the school’s new facility would look like.
“Ta-da!” she said to laughter and applause.
McLaughlin went on to give an update on the school’s strategic planning process, which she referred to as “planning a new era for the School of Education.”
“This has been quite the year in the School of Education in that the new era is upon us,” she said.
In addition to being in a new facility in 2011, this year also marks 50 years since the School of Education became a separate, professional school at William & Mary, the dean said. In recognition of that anniversary, the school has commissioned a history project looking at the roots of education at the College.
“We’ve discovered some really interesting facts that I think affirm the central role of education in the history of the College of William and Mary, in the Commonwealth and certainly in higher ed overall,” she said.