Area Educators Honored for Dedication

The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame announced its slate of 2011 inductees.
“These are extraordinary individuals who have devoted their careers to improving education in Oklahoma, and we’re excited about adding them to the honor roll of outstanding educators in our state,” says Dr. Sharon Lease, executive director of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.

“This year’s inductees deserve the sincere thanks of all Oklahomans for their years of service and the impact they’ve had on students’ lives,” says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi. Photograph portraits of the inductees will be added to the display of other Hall of Fame members on the first floor of the Oliver Hodge building, where the State Department of Education is located.

This year’s inductees are as follows:

Keith Ballard, Ed.D. – Ballard is currently serving as Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. His career spans four decades, beginning with his service as a teacher in the Coweta Public School system. Ballard first entered education administration as an assistant high school principal for Oologah Public Schools in 1977. He served as superintendent for Oologah and Claremore Public Schools, and has been an adjunct professor at Oral Roberts University and a professor at the University of Oklahoma. For eight years from 2000 to 2008, he was executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. As superintendent of Tulsa, Ballard has led the way in the establishment of the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative and established the Teach for America Corps presence in the school system.

Larry Burdick, Ed.D. – For many years, Burdick led Pryor’s Public School system before retiring. He began his education career as a math teacher and coach in 1956. Among his many honors, the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Widely known across the state for his knowledge of school finance, Burdick was named Superintendent of the Year in 1991.

Donnie Nero, Ed.D. – Nero began his education career as a teacher at Sapulpa Junior High School, before becoming Dean of Students at Tulsa Community College, where he rose through the ranks to become provost of the Southeast campus. For the last 11 years he has served as president of Connors State College. He is the first African American president of an Oklahoma college that is not historically black. Under his leadership, Connors was the first higher education institution to be recognized by the Oklahoma Quality Award Foundation (the state’s version of the Malcom Baldridge Award). Nero is active in a number of professional and community organizations. He has served as chair of the Council of Oklahoma Public College/University Presidents; as a board member for the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs; and on the statewide steering committee for the project.

Perry Willis – Willis has spent 47 years in the education profession, beginning with his service as a teacher for Caney Public Schools in 1963. He became principal of Caney High School in 1971, then superintendent of Coleman Public Schools in 1981, where he served for a decade. In 1991, he became an assistant state superintendent and served in variety of roles at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, including as an accreditation officer and as liaison to the State Superintendent. He was the principal author of regulations that stemmed from the landmark legislation in House Bill 1017. He has been executive director of the Organization of Oklahoma Rural Schools since 1996.

Updated 08-31-2011

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