Grants help teachers

BY GINNY MILLER
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Now a quarter of a century old, the private Association for Excellence in Education on Thursday granted $93,000 to Tupelo Public School District teachers.

“I don't know if the founding members 25 years ago had this vision for AEE … what has become of their effort and initiative,” President Janna Sowers said. “Who could imagine over $2 million of contributions being poured into our schools?”

During the organization's annual luncheon, held in Milam Elementary School's gym, 20 large grants totaling $83,129.43 and 13 small grants in the amount of $10,202.24 were awarded for the 2008-2009 school year.

Grant recipients were winnowed from 70 grant applications submitted by more than 200 teachers, AEE Vice President Mary Ann Plasencia said, with 33 projects eventually being fully or partially funded.

Among next year's projects that individual and corporate contributions to AEE will fund, Plasencia noted, are “The RIPPLES Literacy Club” at Milam, “Kindergarten Cooks” at Thomas Street Elementary, and “Success Studios” at the Early Childhood Education Center.

The ECEC, which offers pre-K and kindergarten classes, already operates three projects funded by small AEE grants, teacher Amanda Young said. The large grant the school received, for $2,382.50, will fund a recording studio in which children can record language or literacy lessons for use at home.

Also at the luncheon, public education advocate Jonny Davis was honored with the Jack Reed Sr. Award, while Melinda Tidwell accepted the J.C. Whitehead Award on behalf of the United Way of Northeast Mississippi.

“It's humbling,” said Davis, who has worked with The Parents' Campaign and the Coalition for Children in Public Education.

Said Tidwell.”All United Way volunteers, I think, agree that AEE is a wonderful program and we are glad to be a part of it.”

Contact Journal education writer Ginny Miller at 678-1582 or ginny.miller@djournal.com. Also read her education blog, Inside the Backpack, at the djournal.com Blog Center.