The Fort Smith Public Schools Partners in Education (PIE) Program hosted its annual awards luncheon on May 31 at the Convention Center in downtown Fort Smith. More than 350 educators, business leaders and volunteers came out to support the program which pairs 240 businesses with schools and centers across the District.
The event kicked off with Sherry Sims, PIE Advisory Board Chair, recognizing and thanking the luncheon sponsors. Cox Communications served as the premier sponsor for the event. Gold sponsors included Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp. (AOG); Arkansas Valley Electric; Hug Chevrolet Buick Pontiac GMC; Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E); Tim Risley & Associates; and Webster University. Arkansas Tech University, State Farm Insurance-Brad Thomas, and The Egg & I were Silver sponsors.
Outgoing PIE Advisory Board members were recognized and thanked for their service to the District and to the program. The members included Jeannie Cole, FSPS Board of Education; Keith Cummings, Gerber; Dean Sparks, Chick-fil-a; and Diane Isaacs, Barling Elementary School.
Eleven new partnerships were formed between schools and area businesses during the 2011-2012 school year. The new partners were recognized at the event along with their participating schools. They included Arkansas Games2U with Sutton; Blaze'n Burrito with Orr; Charley's Grilled Subs with Fairview; Collections Floral with Northside's JAG program; Jamell Digital with Northside and Southside; Johnson Dermatology with Ramsey; The Monkey House with Fairview; The Morgan Nick Foundation with FSPS; Nolan, Cadell & Reynolds with Spradling; The Richland Group with Northside and Southside; and Sykes Enterprises with Orr.
Dr. Benny Gooden, Superintendent of Fort Smith Public Schools, was the guest speaker for this year's ceremony. In introducing Dr. Gooden, Sims noted that he stepped in to speak after the scheduled presenter was forced to cancel. She also announced that Dr. Gooden will be installed as President of the American Association of School Administrators at the organization's national conference in July.
Following Dr. Gooden's remarks, Susan Nolte, incoming PIE Chairperson, announced this year's Norma Shaffer Partnership of the Year Award winners. The award was established in 1998 to recognize outstanding partnerships within the program. The honor is named for Norma Shaffer who coordinated Partners in Education from 1986-1998. Each year, the award is presented to one elementary and one secondary or program partnership.
Nolan Cadell & Reynolds and Spradling were presented the elementary award. This year, NCR provided needed supplies for children and sponsored families at the holidays. Associates have also committed their time and energy to mentoring and helping in classrooms throughout the year.
Cooper Clinic and Belle Point Alternative Learning Center were the winners in the secondary/program category. Cooper Clinic has been an active parter with Belle Point for more than 12 years. The clinic provides incentives for students and lends support to the center's onsite child care facility. Cooper staff also make time to spend with and encourage Belle Point students.
New to this year's ceremony was the Partners in Education Whole Heart Award. Nolte explained that award was designed to recognize the incredible efforts of Partners of all shapes and sizes. She added that the term "whole heart" was gleaned front the dozens of nominations that note Partners are engaged "wholeheartedly" in their efforts to support student achievement and well-being. The inaugural recipients of the Partners Whole Heart Awards were: Ameriprise Financial (Partners with Morrison Elementary School); Papa John's Pizza (Partners with Chaffin Junior High School); Southside Rotary Club (Partners with Tilles Elementary School); TRANE (Partners with Chaffin Junior High School); and Weatherford-Williams Manufacturing (Partners with Cavanaugh Elementary School).
Three Bud Jackson Teamwork Awards were presented at this year's ceremony. The award, named for program founder, Bud Jackson, was created in 2003 to recognize outstanding team effort of partnerships.
Northside High School and its PIE team were honored for their increased level of interaction between students and Partners. This year, the school established the first-ever PIE Student Liaison Team comprised of two representatives from each class. The group met with Partners every month at its "First Friday" working lunch to network and discuss ongoing activities. The Northside Partners in Education include: Arkansas Best Corporation; Central Sewing Center; Collections Floral, Inc.; Control Technologies, Inc.; Homebuilders Association of Greater Fort Smith; Ken Colley & Associates; Kraft-Planters; Simmons First Trust Company, N.A.; and SWBC Mortgage.
The second Bud Jackson Award was presented to Chaffin Junior High School and its six Partners in Education. To help ensure student success, the PIE team instituted "The Edge." The program is geared toward improving student achievement, attendance and attitudes. The fourteen young men in the program have all seen vast improvement in each of the three areas, with two even being named Students of the Month. Chaffin's PIE team includes: Brown Hiller Clark; Candy Craze, Custom Awards, Harry Robinson Pontiac Buick; Papa John's Pizza; and Trane.
A special Bud Jackson Award was presented to the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Fort Smith Public Schools. Since PIE was established 30 years ago, the Chamber of Commerce has been an incredible supporter of the program. The schools, businesses and chamber have worked closely to help ensure the success of the area's teachers, administration and students.
The luncheon concluded with the presentation of the Cathy Williams Partner of the Year Award. It was established in 2011 to honor outgoing PIE Director, Cathy Williams, who headed the program for 13 years. The award honors an individual who demonstrates long-term and consistent support to a school through the Partners in Education program. Keith Cummings, long-time PIE volunteer, was selected as the 2012 recipient. Known as "Mr. Keith," Cummings has played an active role in maintaining the partnership between his employer, Gerber, and Howard Elementary School for more than 10 years. He has also served on the PIE Advisory Board and helps organize the annual PIE Food Drive benefitting the Community Services Clearinghouse's Meals for Kids program. Cathy Williams and Dana Craig, the 2011 recipient, were on hand to present him with the award.