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2024 Call for Nominations

Any legislator or legislative staff may nominate an LESN member by submitting the nomination form no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on May 10, 2024. 

Nomination forms should be accompanied by no more than two letters of recommendation. 

Nominations not selected for this year's award will be held for two years and automatically resubmitted to subsequent selection committees. The selection committee may contact the person who originally submitted the nomination for any relevant updates to the nominee's status or qualifications. 

Award Timeline

  • March 4: Nominations open.
  • May 10: Nominations close.
  • June 24: Award recipient announced.
  • July 12-14: Award recipient recognized at ECS LESN summer seminar.
  • Aug. 5-7: Award recipient recognized at NCSL Legislative Summit.
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Award Guidelines


  1. The LESN Recognition Award shall be given to one legislative education staff member annually who, in the discretion of the award selection committee, meets the criteria set forth below.
  2. Except as otherwise indicated herein, all legislative staff working on education policy are eligible to receive the recognition award. 
  3. Previous award winners are not eligible for nomination.

Award Criteria

  1. Must contribute to the work of the Legislative Education Staff Network through  two or more of the following*:
    • Participation at national or regional meetings, webinars, projects, or activities sponsored by NCSL or ECS as a member of LESN.
    • Participation in the LESN listerv through response to staff inquiries or posting of information and inquiries.
    • Participation in LESN seminars or activities as a presenter, facilitator or coordinator.
    • Service as a past member of the LESN steering committee.
    • Other service or assistance, including or not limited to networking across states.
  2. Must exhibit expertise in education policy and a high degree of professionalism
  3. Must exhibit competence and integrity in service to the legislature

* If you do not have info on a nominee’s involvement with LESN, please feel free to reach out to  to inquire about past participation. The coordinator will either share information with you directly or put you in touch with a contact in the nominee’s state.

Award Selection

  1. The selection committee consists of four members: the two current LESN steering committee co-chairs, one current LESN steering committee member, and one former steering committee member. The current and former steering committee member will be chosen by the current co-chairs. 
  2. A member of the selection committee will excuse herself from the entire selection process if a legislative staff from the member's state is nominated for the award. ECS and NCSL coordinators will select a substitute committee member as necessary to fill vacancies. 
  3. The selection committee will review nominations based upon the criteria above to determine the award recipients. 

2022 Award Recipient(s)

Ailey Kato

Ailey Kato is the staff coordinator and counsel to the Washington Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education. Since she was first hired as an intern in 2011 and again as full-time staff in 2014, she has embodied excellent service to legislators, expertise in education issues, and collegiality and leadership to her fellow legislative staff. 

Committee members describe her as “professional,” “trustworthy,” “proactive” and “invaluable.” She seamlessly staffs a committee that covers two expansive topics, and her knowledge of both early learning and K-12 education subjects and stakeholders is nothing short of impressive. She took on supervisory responsibilities for the staff team that covers education in 2018. 

Her leadership goes beyond her role as a manager. She participates as a trainer for new Senate Committee Services (SCS) staff members and contributes to the internship program she once participated in as a law student. She also coordinates the SCS Staff Forum program, which provides an opportunity for legislative staff to share experiences, develop skills and connect with one another.

She has been a member of LESN since 2015 and served on the steering committee in 2020. We are thrilled to recognize and celebrate her contributions to the Legislature and to fellow staff with this well-deserved award. 

Previous Award Recipients


LaMont Rainey

LESN is proud to take part in this tradition and is thrilled to announce that the 2021 LESN Recognition Award recipient is LaMont Rainey!

LaMont Rainey has served the Nebraska legislature since graduating law school in 1999, currently as legal counsel to the Nebraska Legislative Research Office and previously as legal counsel for the education and judiciary committees. His colleagues praise his competence, professionalism and integrity, calling his contributions “invaluable” and noting his mentorship and commitment to continuous learning. One senator said, “LaMont is one of those truly special staff members who make all elected officials look good. His knowledge is deep and his commitment to education policy is solid.”

Rainey has been an active member of NCSL and LESN since 2008. He served as a member of the 2019 LESN Steering Committee and enthusiastically recruits new LESN members in Nebraska. LESN is proud to recognize and applaud his outstanding service to the Nebraska Legislature, to the network, and to education policy.


Mary Kenfield

The Legislative Education Staff Network is pleased to present Mary Kenfield, Senior Education Policy Analyst and Staff Director for the Washington State House Democratic Caucus, with the 2020 LESN Recognition Award. 

Mary’s long career in education policy began in her local Parent Teacher Association in Federal Way, Wash. After joining the PTA as a parent, Mary served the Washington State PTA as a Program Director and later as the Director of Government Affairs. Mary has been a prominent member of several national organizations shaping education policy, including the LESN Steering Committee; the National Conference for State Legislators Educator Effectiveness Partnership; and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Over the years, she has also presented at many conferences, panels, and work groups about professional development and other aspects of K-12 education policy.

We are proud to have Mary on our LESN team. Her experience and leadership provide great value and insight to our network. Thank you, Mary!

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