Life is not a spectator sport. That's the philosophy of Harford County school board member George D. Lisby.
His outlook keeps him so involved that, though he retired from his last job as a supervisor in Baltimore and Baltimore County private schools in 1991, he still works about 30 hours a week as a member of the school board.
"You can sit on the sidelines and complain, or you can get in the arena and try to make things better," he said.
Mr. Lisby, 60, of Aberdeen, is being honored by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education for his contributions to education. The association will give him the Charles W. Willis Award.
"It says that, selected by his own peer group, he is the one board member in the state who will be recognized this year for outstanding service to children and education," said Susan Buswell, the association's executive director.
The award is open to all current and former school board members in the state. Mr. Lisby is the second Harford County board member to receive the award. The first was former school board President Percy V. Williams, who was given the award in 1989.
Mr. Lisby started his education career as a sixth-grade teacher in Dorchester County in 1953. He returned to teach in his native Harford County in 1956. He served as an assistant principal at William Paca-Old Post Road Elementary School for one year before joining the Maryland Department of Education in 1971.
He served as a regional specialist and then as director of the state's Chapter 1 program -- a federally funded project to teach reading and math to low-income elementary schoolchildren -- until he left the department in 1984. After that, Mr. Lisby worked ++ as an exhibitor for a book company and as a supervisor of Chapter 1 programs in private schools, until he retired four years ago.
Since then, he spends many of his days and evenings in meetings, on the phone, and visiting schools to talk to principals, teachers and students.
He is pleased with his work to improve Chapter 1 programs. "There is more emphasis today on [students'] academic growth and less upon monitoring the funds," he said. "Before there was probably too much emphasis on who was getting the service."
As a Harford County school board member, Mr. Lisby encouraged the creation of five-year plans for subject areas.
"You always need to have a vision," he said. "It helps you use your dollars more efficiently."
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education will present the award to Mr. Lisby Sept. 21 at the group's annual conference in Ocean City.