Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White will receive the "Friend of Education" award from the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) during a July 12 annual banquet.
Dr. Robert Diaber, president of the IARSS, told School Transportation News that the association felt White had not been properly recognized for a career spent serving as a mentor to the state's youth, especially for his Toby Tire School Bus Safety Program, a fully animated robot that interacts with pre-K through 6th-grade students in an entertaining and educational manner. The program launched in the fall of 1999, several months after White first took office. Ever since, the state has not recorded an official student fatality in the school bus loading or unloading zone.
White's office said Illinois currently holds the record of being the largest state with the longest-running, fatality-free record. White, meanwhile, is the longest serving secretary of state in Illinois history.
"He has pioneered efforts to work with schools through his incredible robot, Toby Tire," said Daiber, in describing what the association referred to as White's "crowning achievement.
"Secretary White has advocated for school bus safety his entire time while serving as Secretary of State," Daiber added."His policies have been instrumental in reducing school bus accidents while transporting children to and from school every day."
White began focusing on school bus safety after loading zone fatalities spiked during the eight years prior to his election as secretary of state, when 14 students were killed in loading and unloading zone accidents.
White has served as secretary of state for nearly 13 years and has won re-election four times. He was a public school teacher and administrator at Chicago Public Schools for 33 years before being elected to the Illinois General Assembly, where he served for 16 years before. He then was elected as the Cook County Recorder of Deeds in 1992 and winning re-election to that office four years later.
"Secretary White has continued to be an advocate for children, public education and the safety of getting kids to and from school," Daiber added.
White is also well known for founding the "Jesse White Tumblers" in 1959. The acrobatic troupe of low-income youth travel the world to perform at National Basketball Association, the National Football League and Major League Baseball games as well as at business and other sporting events year-round, including colleges and universities. More than 13,000 young men and women have participated in the program since its inception.