The National School Boards Association Board of Directors today announced that Thomas J. Gentzel will retire as Executive Director & CEO in May 2020.
“Tom’s extraordinary vision and leadership have served NSBA well, and its members and millions of students benefitted from his efforts,” said ElizaBeth “Beth” Branham, NSBA President and school board member in Lexington School District Two in Columbia, SC. “Tom has used his creativity, passion for public education, policymaking skills and management expertise to strengthen NSBA and its advocacy for local governance and public schools.”
Gentzel has dedicated most of his professional career to supporting school boards and enhancing local governance. Prior to NSBA, Gentzel served as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) for 11 years. His career at PSBA started in 1980 as a lobbyist and, five years later, he was named head of the association’s Office of Governmental and Member Relations, a position he held for more than 16 years. He became PSBA’s CEO in 2001, directing a staff of 150 persons who provided publications, conferences and seminars, as well as insurance programs, management and legal assistance, and advocacy services for local school officials. Gentzel was named NSBA Executive Director & CEO in 2012.
“I have been honored to lead this outstanding organization, which is making such an important difference in ensuring that all children, everywhere, have access to a great public education,” Tom Gentzel said. “I believe deeply in public schools and NSBA’s mission. NSBA has a vital role in public education and it will always be its leading advocate. I look forward to continuing to support both institutions in the future.”
“Tom’s seven years of service to NSBA have been marked by outstanding financial performance, successful federal advocacy and increased focus on educational equity,” said Branham.
Under Gentzel’s leadership, NSBA was a pivotal advocate in the effort to secure passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a landmark law that restored local governance and community ownership of public education. ESSA was a significant victory for public education because it reflects a “new federalism” in education policy by redefining the federal role and restoring state and local decision-making authority. It acknowledged the importance of school boards and recognized the value of their unique knowledge and expertise in serving students. The beneficiaries include the approximately 50 million children in public schools, parents, teachers, administrators and communities.
NSBA continues to address educational equity by advocating for critical protections for disadvantaged and high-need students and to work to secure federal policies and legal outcomes that will help students succeed in life.
“Tom has had a terrific career and his leadership of NSBA has been invaluable,” said Branham. “NSBA has accomplished a great deal and built a record of success toward many key objectives of school board members. Tom has positioned NSBA well for the next stage in its life.”
Gentzel represents NSBA on the board of the Learning First Alliance, a coalition consisting of 13 of the country’s leading education organizations, having served as the group’s 2016-17 chair, and is a member of the National Board of Counselors for the Arizona State University School of Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership. He is a former chair of NSBA’s Organization of State Association Executive Directors and previously served on the board of the National School Public Relations Association.
Gentzel was the 2014 recipient of the Edward Donley Award by the Education Policy and Leadership Center and, in 2017, was named one of 20 national education Thought Leaders by TrustEd.
Gentzel earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Development and a Master of Public Administration degree from The Pennsylvania State University. He is a former member of the university’s Outreach Advisory Board, delivered the 2017 Commencement Address to its College of Education and was the recipient of the college’s 2018 Service to Penn State Award.
“I have made many great friends during my time at NSBA. I look forward to continuing to support NSBA and to work to enhance public education,” said Gentzel.