By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Standing in front of a display that included sculpture from Africa and bowls that students had made to resemble Mexican art, Thomas Street Elementary instructional coach Christy Jordan reflected on the value of the Association for Excellence in Education to her school.
“AEE helps us keep arts alive in this district,” Jordan said. “With all of the budget cuts we’re facing, their support really helps us go that extra step.”
AEE’s annual luncheon held at Pierce Street Elementary School on Thursday highlighted the efforts of the private organization to support Tupelo’s public schools through annual grants.
Displays from 13 Tupelo Public Schools showed how they had used grant money from the organization this year. The display that Jordan stood in front of highlighted a grant Thomas Street used to teach kindergarten to second-grade students about art from around the world.
The luncheon was also the time to announce grants for the 2010-11 school year, when the organization will use $94,600 of contributions to fund 28 projects. It received proposals for 104 projects totaling more than $500,000.
AEE President Deborah McPherson said all of the money the organization receives goes toward projects.
“They were some of the highest-quality grants we’ve seen, and it is heartbreaking you can’t fund them all,” McPherson said.
Rankin Elementary third-grade teacher Karen Wells received the AEE’s Founder’s Grant for “Leonardo’s Workshop,” a project based upon Leonardo da Vinci that will expose children to architecture, science, sketching, botany and art, among other crafts.
In addition to a $7,374 grant, Wells also received $500 to spend in her classroom.
“If we can show the kids several different opportunities, they may be interested in something they didn’t know about,” Wells said.
The luncheon honored Lane Furniture as the recipient of the J.C. Whitehead Award for corporate education advocates.
“We’re really pleased to be able to endorse and support public education,” President Greg Roy said.
Mary Ann Plasencia received the Jack Reed Sr. Advocate for Education Award.
“The looks on your faces when you saw kids singing or heard teachers tell you about their experiences gives me great hope,” Plasencia told the audience. “I believe in Tupelo in a way I haven’t believed in Tupelo before. One of the reasons that our schools are going to continue to improve is that we still believe in the system.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.