OUR OPINION: AEE continues focus on student enrichment

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s private-sector Association For Excellence in Education on Thursday awarded $67,213 in special project grants involving 31 teachers in seven different Tupelo public schools, and presented its top awards for individual and community advocacy to a long-time industrial citizen and a former school board member.
Lee Tucker, whose term on the school board ended earlier this spring, was named the 2012 recipient of the Jack Reed Sr. Advocate for Education Award. Reed, chairman of the R.W. Reed Co. department stores, has been a high-profile public school advocate since returning to Tupelo following service in World War II.
Philips-Day-Brite Lighting Co. won the J.C. Whitehead Award for corporate education advocacy. Whitehead, who is deceased, was longtime CEO and chairman of BancorpSouth.
The legacies of both Reed and Whitehead epitomize the best in Tupelo citizens’ commitment to public education, and in the business leadership’s recognition of the critical importance of strong public schools to a community’s economic and social health and stability.
AEE’s annual luncheon, held this year at Thomas Street School, saw diverse awards presented to teachers for innovative academic advancement projects. (See the full list on Page 6A.)
AEE is one of the defining organizations that have given Tupelo its reputation for innovative public-private partnerships. It was started nearly 30 years ago by a group of Tupelo citizens who wanted to give the city’s schoolchildren an extra edge with creative instruction beyond what the regular school budget could provide.
In the decades since, committed teachers have come up with hundreds of innovative ideas that have enhanced the learning experience of thousands of children. Grants have totaled more than $2.7 million since, and today AEE has 400 individual and corporate members. For the first time this year, it will offer special grants to teachers and principals deemed to be high performers.
The organization not only benefited Tupelo but has been a model for similar efforts in other school systems and communities.
The Tupelo Public School District has been through some rocky times recently, raising questions about the community’s long-term commitment to its historic core defining value of strong public schools. But the fact that AEE remains strong and vibrant, and that teachers eagerly and appreciatively take advantage of the resources it offers, are signs that Tupelo will do what it takes to improve and enhance the educational experience for all children.
AEE represents a robust effort helping to make strong public education possible.