This year’s winner of the Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is Joseph A. Buck, III, president of Georgia’s Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education.
Buck, a school board member since 2006, received the award during the 45th Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Conference in Atlanta. CUBE honored Buck for his efforts to improve student achievement and management in the school district as well as his efforts to increase community engagement in the district’s public schools.
The Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals who demonstrate a long-standing commitment to the educational needs of urban schoolchildren through school board service. Benjamin Elijah Mays, whom the award honors, was a teacher, minister, author, and civil rights activist who served as president of Morehouse College and the Atlanta school board from 1970 to 1981.
Buck spent nearly 40 years as an administrator at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, most recently as vice president of student affairs. During that time, he also built partnerships between the university, the school system, and key businesses. Two local programs that he has helped implement include Leadership Savannah and Leadership Georgia, which help local professionals gain leadership skills. Buck recruited many teachers and administrators to these programs and used his positions on the groups’ boards of trustees to build partnerships between schools and the business community.
When Buck became Savannah-Chatham’s school board president, the school district was on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was facing declining enrollments and mistrust from the community. Working with a new superintendent, Buck helped expand a school choice system and bring back students to neighborhood public schools.
Buck has supported charter schools in his school district, and helped build a new charter facility using the education special purpose local option sales tax. He also is a member of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s education advisory group, which meets quarterly to discuss issues facing schools in the state.