By NEMS Daily Journal

The all-volunteer Association for Excellence in Education on today announces its annual grants for special projects in the Tupelo Public Schools and makes awards honoring private-sector individuals and corporate supporters of public education.
AEE, founded in 1983, has contributed more than $2.6 million for projects submitted by teachers throughout the system, and that total will increase with today’s announcement.
As is tradition, a school provides the backdrop for the annual AEE celebration, this time at Rankin Elementary, with project displays for the 2010-2011 year opening at 11 a.m., followed by a dutch-treat lunch and presentations.
AEE, with more than 300 individual and corporate members, is expected to announce 15 large grants and six small grants.
The association, which attracted nationwide attention when it was started, empowers teachers in the Tupelo district to stretch their creativity and the level of student commitment to learning with projects not affordable within the regular budget.
The association, whose administrative costs are donated by CREATE Foundation, has individual memberships for $25, but some individual and corporate gifts are substantially larger. Every member has an equal voice and opportunity for full participation, and the volunteer crops is a mosaic of the school district’s diverse enrollment.
The program powerfully reminds AEE members, teachers, students and the larger community that Tupelo’s enthusiasm for education rises from long-term leadership – a continuum that has included thousands of people through the decades, all contributing uniquely and powerfully to the reality of community support.
Two awards are presented for exceptional service, named for ardent backers of public schools in Tupelo. The J.C. Whitehead Award is presented for corporate leadership, named after the late chairman of BancorpSouth and a longtime community leader.
The Jack Reed Sr. Award for individual achievement is for leadership and hard work within AEE and the district. Reed, a former chairman of the state Board of Education and a long-time advocate for public school support in Tupelo, is a graduate of the Tupelo schools and the father of four children, all Tupelo graduates.
The AEE long-term contribution is an iconic symbol of how unified support for public schools makes a difference across every line that some would use to divide the community. Applause and cheers and tears of joy all will be seen and heard at today’s event, the visible emotions of people intensely proud of their children and intensely committed to the schools they attend.
AEE’s work, in what has been a less than unified atmosphere, becomes a doubly valued asset for every student and teacher.

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