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Early Childhood Education Advocate Receives the 2014 West Virginia Champion of Universal Pre-K Award

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September 25, 2014

Champion of Pre-K
From left: WV Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano, State Board of Education President Gayle Manchin, Gerry Sawrey, Assistant State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Geraldine "Gerry" J. O'Connor Sawrey, a retired Cabell County Assistant Superintendent and longtime advocate of early childhood education, has been named the 2014 recipient of the West Virginia Champion of Pre-K Award.

The award was presented Thursday at the West Virginia Department of Education's (WVDE) Pre-K Leadership Summit in Charleston by the West Virginia Pre-K Steering Team, an interagency advisory team consisting of members from the WVDE, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) and the West Virginia Head Start Collaboration Office.

"Early childhood education, through Universal Pre-K, is one area where West Virginia is overcoming societal obstacles to help children start their academic careers on a firm foundation," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano. "Research shows that high-quality pre-K can help improve the educational success of all children; improve dropout, attendance and graduation rates; deter crime and delinquency; and, improve economic productivity and health."

Mrs. Sawrey led the Cabell County Collaborative Early Childhood Team in developing a pre-K program that has served as a model of best practices to other counties across the state. Her passion for pre-K extended locally as she served with her collaborative partners as a member of the South Western Community Action Head Start Advisory Council.

Not only has Sawrey been a strong leader locally, but she has also hosted and mentored other teams seeking guidance on pre-K program development. Sawrey actively supported state growth through her service on the West Virginia Pre-K Continuous Quality Improvement Advisory Council and the WVDE Policy 2419 Revision Advisory Council.

As the Cabell County director of special education, she helped establish a specialized classroom to address the needs of children with autism and has monitored programs for children with autism, behavior disorders, profound mental impairments, visual impairments, hearing impairments, traumatic brain injury and the preschool special needs program. In 2005, she assumed the job of assistant superintendent for school improvement before retiring in 2013.

For more information, contact the WVDE Communication Office at 304-558-2699.

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