Tupelo teachers get $92K during AEE luncheon's return

·3 min read

Sep. 16—TUPELO — The Association for Excellence in Education (AEE) annual luncheon in partnership with the Tupelo Public School District returned Friday after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendees have the opportunity to view demonstrations of projects funded with last year's prior to the "Elvis through the decades" themed luncheon hosted by Thomas Street Elementary School.

TPSD Superintendent Dr. Rob Picou welcomed the crowd and thanked AEE and all of the event's sponsors for their generous support of the district.

Picou said a student recently asked him to name one thing that makes TPSD such a special place. He couldn't.

"There is no one thing," Picou said. "We have 1,200 employees, 7,000 students. The reason Tupelo Public School District is special is because of our people. All of our supporters and our amazing community. There are more than 10,000 reasons Tupelo Public School District is a special place."

Thomas Street students performed choreographed dances on stage in the lunchroom to Elvis hits, including "Burning Love" and "Hound Dog," while a handful of boys dressed dressed in jumpsuits and leather jackets crisscrossed the crowd.

The AEE board announced the funding of 37 grants totaling $91,761.38, which will be used by TPSD teachers during the 2022-23 school year. Each of the district's 14 schools, including the Structured Day Program, received at least one funded grant.

Advocate for Education Awards and Kay Bishop Innovation Awards

Zell Long was named recipient of the Jack Reed Sr. Advocate for Education award, given each year to an individual who champions public education.

Long is a committed leader in the realm of government and nonprofit work. Having served 34 years with the City of Tupelo, she is credited with securing more than $26 million in grant funding for the city and leading efforts for Tupelo to gain its 1999 All-America award.

She has served as Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi since 2010. She also has a longstanding record of supporting community boards and committees that buoy public education, including the CREATE Foundation, Excel By 5, Committee for King and United Way of Northeast Mississippi.

"Education is so important to me and the lives of young children I try to impact," Long said as she accepted the award.

Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo was named winner of this year's J.C. Whitehead Advocate for Education award, which is presented to a business or organization that epitomizes the ideals of Whitehead.

Summer Swinney, Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo president, said the group is thankful and blessed to have schools like TPSD to serve, meeting children where they are.

"It's the work of the other women and everybody here, the counselors, the teachers, and we just thank the community for supporting us," Swinney said. "It's a huge honor for us."

Members of Junior Auxiliary are committed to the belief that each child is important. The group plays a key part in the development of Lee County and Tupelo students from early childhood through high school.

The Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo currently operates 10 programs that positively affects students in the area, including a clothes closet program that provides free clothing to pre-K through 12th grade students, and Silent Servings, a backpack program that helps provide food for students who might otherwise go hungry. They also provide scholarships to graduating seniors.

Along with the Advocate for Education Awards, the AEE board presented 10 teachers with Kay Bishop Innovation Awards in memory of TPSD staff member Kay Bishop. Those teachers included Amy Buzzell, Anna Taylor, Travis Ver Hey, Mary Rollins Culpepper, Stephanie Brown, Simms Haadsma, Katherine Riley, Dr. Keila Glenn, Laura Sheffield and Katrina Ivy-Berry.

blake.alsup@djournal.com