OUR OPINION: AEE stays strong even after $2.8M raised

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Association for Excellence in Education – Tupelo’s long-term, high-energy private-sector fundraising organization for special, challenging projects in the Tupelo Public Schools celebrated its 30th anniversary on Thursday with a rocking and rolling Elvis-themed annual meeting – and $66,000 more awarded for special projects in the 2013-14 school year.
AEE, as the all-volunteer organization is universally known, has raised $2.8 million, all poured into academically enriching projects designed by teachers to provide knowledge and instruction not possible within the budget constraints from regular sources.
Thousands of parents have been involved in AEE across the decades, committing time, creativity and financial resources to the organization’s goals.
In addition, hundreds of other supporters, including corporate and business leaders and many individuals who have no direct family stake in the public schools, have been supporters through memberships and contributions.
Nineteen special projects were announced at Thursday’s meetings, ranging from robotics to international art.
Thursday’s lunch meeting at Carver Elementary included presentation of AEE’s two highest honors for voluntary leadership:
• The J.C. Whitehead Award for Corporate Leadership to Franklin Collection Service. Whitehead was the longtime CEO and chairman of BancorpSouth and a tireless proponent of quality education in Tupelo.
• The Jack Reed, Sr. Advocate for Education Award to Dr. Mark and Diane Craig. Reed, chairman of R.W. Reed Co., remains an outspoken and articulate supporter of public education in Tupelo and statewide.
While private-sector support for public education is not a new phenomenon, AEE’s consistent willingness to adapt its goals with changes in the challenges in education is unusual.
The tenacity and strength of AEE derives from its diverse membership, its open welcome to all who can and will volunteer their services in dozens of ways, and its singular focus on pushing the envelope of innovation and rigor at every grade level throughout the Tupelo district.
Most measures of a school district’s strength list community support at or near the top of assets. AEE, since its inception and organization by 30 individuals in 1983 – some still involved – embodies what Tupeloans proudly know as the “Tupelo Spirit.”
Passion and endurance are its hallmarks, and it is almost beyond value as an asset for education.