Fort Smith Public Schools Partners in Education hosted its annual award luncheon on June 7 at the Phoenix Expo Center in Fort Smith. Prior to the luncheon, a reception was held honoring Cathy Williams, long-time director of Partners in Education, who is retiring at the end of June. Representatives from partner businesses and organizations, as well as from FSPS and the community, paid tribute to Williams for her dedication to the program. In her 12 years as director, the program more than doubled in size, growing to include more than 250 partnerships between the schools and community.
Dr. Benny Gooden, Fort Smith Public Schools Superintendent, welcomed featured speaker Mayor Sandy Sanders. Sanders, who has been involved with the Partners in Education program for many years, spoke to the importance of having schools and community businesses and organizations connected with another.
Following Sanders, Dean Sparks, Chick-Fil-A, recognized outgoing Partners in Education board members John Craig, Simmons First National Bank, Jim Garvey, Northside High School and Krystle Smith, Sunnymede Elementary. Sparks also announced the 19 new Partners in Education (see below) who joined the program during the 2010-2011 year.
Every year, PIE recognizes outstanding partnerships between schools and businesses or organizations. The Norma Shaffer Partnership of the Year Award is presented every year to one elementary school and to one secondary school or program. It is named for former Partners in Education director, Norma Shaffer who coordinated the program from 1986-1998.
The Norma Shaffer Partnership of the Year Award for Elementary Schools was presented to Fairview Elementary with Fort Smith EMS. Working in conjunction with the Fairview staff, Fort Smith EMS helped kick start the "Let's Move" afterschool exercise program for students by writing a grant to purchase the necessary equipment and supplies. Fort Smith EMS also provided backpacks for Star Students and a free smoke alarm for every Fairview family and staff member. The EMTs also serve every morning helping to keep the children safe during morning drop-off as part of the WATCH DOGS (Dads of Great Students) program.
The Norma Shaffer Partnership of the Year Award for Secondary Schools and Programs was presented to Parker Center with Sam's Club. Throughout the year, Sam's Club provides funds and supplies to assist with programs such as PAT (Parents as Teachers) and HEP (Homeless Education Program). Employees often volunteer their time to assist with projects such as stuffing backpacks and labeling books. The employees also serve as pen pals to sixth graders and have hosted store visits for the students.
Named for Partners in Education Founder Bud Jackson, the prestigious Bud Jackson Teamwork Award is presented to teams of school partners who establish remarkable synergy in their efforts to serve the students in their respective schools. These groups of people set an exemplary standard of collaboration and teamwork:
Howard Elementary School with their partners represent long-term and continuing effort that benefits the students and staff at Howard.
Weldon, Williams and Lick
Beard Elementary School with their partners have made remarkable strides in their implementation of the Leader in Me program, as well as the many other ongoing partnership activities.
Harp's (Market Trace)
Noon Exchange Club
Chaffin Junior High School with their partners represent the best example of what a new team can do in a very short period of time. Many of these partners were recognized as new to the team in 2010-2011.
Brown Hiller Clark
A special Bud Jackson Outstanding Teamwork Award was also presented to eFortSmith for its continued support of the District and Partners in Education. Since its inception, Entertainment Fort Smith has continually highlighted the work of the Partners throughout the year. The magazine also dedicates its May issue to Partners in Education featuring both a cover for PIE and content about the work of partners in the schools. The publication was honored with the award on behalf of the entire District.
These groups are magnificent examples of Margaret Mead's quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
In recognition of Williams' leadership, a new award was established. The Cathy Williams Partner of the Year was created to honor an individual who demonstrates long term consistent support to a school through the PIE program. The first Cathy Williams Partner of the Year Award was presented to Dana Craig, otherwise known as "Miss OG&E." Craig has been a faithful volunteer at Cavanaugh Elementary School for more than 20 years through the Partners in Education Program. She is a fixture at the school serving as a science fair judge, a speaker at monthly assemblies and much more.
Sherry Sims, Rheem, Partners in Education Advisory Board Chair and Susan Nolte, Arvest, Partners in Education Advisory Board Chair-Elect present a check for $1,000 to Cathy Williams. The funds were donated by partners and community members to be used for Williams' post-retirement travels.
Concluding the banquet, Sparks paid tribute to Williams for her dedication to Fort Smith Public Schools and to Partners in Education. Speaking on behalf of the partners, he expressed his gratitude to her and noted that she was leaving "big boots to fill." Williams was then presented with a check for $1,000 to use toward trips she is planning to Italy and Ireland. The funds were all donated by partners and by members of the community.