2010 LESN Recognition Award



picture of Helen JamesThe Legislative Education Staff Network (LESN) is pleased to recognize Dr. Helen James for excellence in service to the Tennessee General Assembly and to the Legislative Education Staff Network. LESN is honored to present Helen with the 2010 LESN Recognition Award.

Helen has dedicated her professional life to public service. She has worked for the legislature since 2002 and prior to that served for 22 years in state employee service, including having taught at both the secondary school and college level. Helen has served as the staff attorney for the House and Senate Education Committees, the K-12 Subcommittee, the Higher Education Subcommittee and the joint Oversight Committee on Education since 2005. She has also served as a “second chair” attorney to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee and now the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee. Throughout her tenure, Helen has demonstrated the highest level of professionalism, competence and integrity in her service to the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.

Helen is actively involved in NCSL and the Education Commission of the States (ECS) having participated in a number of regional and national meetings as a member of LESN. Additionally, Helen actively participates in the LESN listserv and corresponds with a number of her legislative colleagues on a variety of education issues. She is diligent in responding to queries on topics Tennessee has addressed previously, truly understanding and responding to the needs of her legislative colleagues.

Helen has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues and the members of the Tennessee General Assembly. She is the authority on the Tennessee Lottery Scholarship Program, having drafted all enabling legislation and nearly all of the statutory revisions since its inception. As such, she is often called upon by her colleagues in neighboring states to provide insight into Tennessee’s education policies and procedures.

Jacqueline Nash, Legislative Researcher, Office of Legal Services, Tennessee General Assembly nominated Helen for this award and wrote:

"Her finest hour, however, undoubtedly occurred this past January as she handled the extensive legal work for the General Assembly during the special session on education Tennessee’s comprehensive overhaul of its education statutes, both K-12 and higher education, was a gargantuan challenge. Helen was up to the task as she led the legislative legal staff, overseeing all drafted legislation, drafting major amendments, and assisting sponsoring legislators, Education Committee members and legislative staff. Her efforts helped the State of Tennessee make major changes in education policy in numerous areas, leading to an ambitious and innovative Race to the Top proposal that proved to be a winner, much like Helena James."

Thank you, Helen, for your years of service to the Tennessee General Assembly and to the Legislative Education Staff Network!