Harris County School Superintendent Dr. John E. Sawyer has been named 2007 "Distinguished Educator of the Year" by Sam Houston State University College of Education. The award is the highest the college bestows upon its alumni.
Sawyer was selected for the award by a university committee from a nominated pool of 150 educators, according to Sam Houston College of Education Dean Dr. Genevieve Brown. The county superintendent earned a master´s degree from the university and is specifically being awarded the "Distinguished Administrator Award."
"We take pride in recognizing your expertise and outstanding service in the classroom, school, district and community as well as your significant contributions in the field of education and society," said Brown. The university hosts a celebration honoring Sawyer on March 3 in Huntsville.
The La Porte, Texas resident has led the department which provides educational services to 26 area school district for four years. Most significantly, Sawyer served as leader when the department was called upon by Texas Education Agency Education Commissioner Dr. Shirley Neeley to manage Katrina/Rita Education Relief in Texas in 2005.
Harris County Department of Education, a 118-year-old institution, has evolved as an award-winning service organization for 26 districts in greater Harris County. The department operates 25 divisions and services which range from professional development for educators to after-school programs for over 100 sites to adult education programs for 10,000 adults annually. In addition, HCDE operates 17 Head Start centers; five schools for special needs and adjudicated youth; and supplies over 300 specialists who work for school districts providing occupational therapy, psychology or speech
therapy to over 8,500 area children with disabilities.
During the devastation from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, over $20,000 in school supply monetary donations arrived from nationwide donors. HCDE distributed funds and several tons of supplies to needy districts from its headquarters at 6300 Irvington Blvd. in northeast Houston.
HCDE staff manned an emergency phone bank which logged over 1,000 calls from concerned citizens across the nation. Later as evacuees assimilated in Houston, those staffers answered calls from parents looking for schools for their children.
Moreover, HCDE´s Center for Safe and Secure Schools staffed the Katrina Hurricane Relief Center at Reliant Stadium. As parents came to enroll students in area schools, HCDE employees were there to assist.
Through post-hurricane months, Sawyer continued his commitment to provide HCDE resources to area school districts in the Gulf Coast area.
"Forget the legal obligation," said Sawyer when interviewed by an East Coast radio station last September. "We have a moral obligation to serve these children."
Prior to his appointment at HCDE, Sawyer served as La Porte superintendent and is an active member of his community. He is a trustee on the Texas School Coalition Executive Board, a member of the nonprofit Texas Education Reform Caucus and has served on the board of directors for the Texas Association of School Business Officials in Austin.