Partners in Education is going strong after 30 years
It's bigger than all of us, and that's what makes the Fort Smith Public Schools' Partners in Education program so hard to capture.
For 30 years, Fort Smith schools have been blessed with volunteer businesses, organizations and individuals who adopt specific schools and assist students, teachers and administrators.
The picture above shows representatives - but not all - of the partners attending the 2012 luncheon where outstanding partnerships are recognized. More than 200 Partners in Education are active this year. This magazine, as a partner to the school district overall, has as our mission to give readers a look at the program each year.
Thirty years ago, Bud Jackson of Weldon, Williams & Lick contacted then-superintendent C.B. Garrison to ask how the company could lend a helping hand to nearby Howard Elementary.
Together, the two launched the idea that became Partners in Education, which is going stronger than ever.
The genius of the partnership program, which has been tended over those years by school district administrators Norma Shaffer, Cathy Williams and, currently, Zena Featherston Marshall, is that it is not tended in an overly bureaucratic way. A business need only volunteer the amount of man-hours or in-kind donations it wishes. Every new partner is introduced to a school for consideration. Most of the time, a love match has been made that lasts for years. Every partner, no matter how much or how little it can do, is deeply appreciated.
Recognition is given to outstanding partners each May at the end-of-year banquet (pictured above) but the awards are not a contest. In the eyes of the school district, they are all champions.
The real action happens between a partner and their school. In many cases, all of the school's partners work together and hold regular meetings. Administrators and teachers communicate with partners the needs and opportunities the school may have. The partners work to help and sometimes propose their own ideas.
On Aug. 2, all partners will gather to exchange ideas in a half-day workshop at Ramsey Junior High School.
Some companies and organizations are big enough to spare several people to visit a school regularly. For small businesses, sending one person may represent a commitment of 50 percent of their staff. There are a few partnerships where a single person is the liaison to the school and some of them have accomplished the most amazing things.
The school district and individual schools accept all they are offered, making no size distinctions in their gratitude. We offer you a snapshot of only a few of the partnerships that serve as illustrations of this wonderful program. Another good way to learn about being a partner is to be one.
Several partners share their experiences: