I have been working with Public Education Partners for just over one year now and I am very proud to represent such a wonderful organization. It is indeed a pleasure to work with the finest educators and administrators that you will find anywhere and I appreciate the kindness that you have all shown to me this year. But now it’s time I thank some wonderful people for giving me this opportunity for their support and for all that they do for Aiken County Public Schools. As you may know, Public Education Partners raises funds for our Aiken County Public Schools, kindergarten through 12th grade.

Our vision is to see that all students in the Aiken County School District achieve their potential to be lifelong learners and productive citizens of our community.

Our mission is to engage the community’s support for quality public education with innovative programs and positive initiatives that create measurable improvement in our schools.

Public Education Partners is an independent, community-based non-profit organization, 501(c)(3), established in 1995 to support the improvement of public education throughout Aiken County. Since its inception, the organization has identified unmet academic needs in Aiken County public schools and has mobilized community resources to meet these needs. The group has been instrumental in developing supplemental K-12 programs in literacy, math and science, arts and humanities and workforce preparation.  The partnership provides funding for innovative programs and strong community collaborations that leverage the resources of the community to improve education.

We intend to continue this mission to identify those academic areas that need supplemental services and to develop programs to address those needs.  At present, over 93 percent of the county’s children – nearly 25,000 students – attend public schools. 

These children deserve educational opportunities that are adequate to meet the admissions requirements of institutions of higher education as well as the needs of employers. The organization’s programs provide necessary and diverse enhancements to supplement the academic offerings available through the schools, enriching both the students and the community, and provide educational resources that students in more advantaged school districts expect as part of their regular education.

All of these things are simply wonderful and none of these programs and projects would be possible without your help and the help of several companies, businesses and corporations in Aiken County. We appreciate your donations and support more than you know. However, the purpose of this letter is to thank Public Education Partners’ Board of Directors. We have a completely volunteer Board made up of community and business leaders and educators and the work that they do is simply phenomenal. They give their money and their time freely. When I need anything at all (which is really often) they are always there and I mean immediately. I would like to thank Kimberly Canada, our immediate past chair, Monica Key, who was our 2012 chair, Dr. Liz Stewart, our current chair, Robert Gentry, our current vice chair, Natalie Fox, our current treasurer, Barry Adams, our past treasurer, Diana Floyd, our current secretary, Dr. Angela Burkhalter, our past secretary, Jamie Koelker, our Events and Programs chair, Kenneth Baldwin, Pat Kirk, Gloria Allen, Rosie Berry, April Collins, Beverly Clyburn, Stuart MacVean, Ahmed Samaha, Chris Emerling, Mike Uhle and Will Williams.

If you have children, grand-children, nieces or nephews or friends in our public school system, please thank these wonderful ladies and gentlemen when you see them. I can assure you that they are very instrumental in supporting and advocating for our Aiken County Public Schools.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You are the best!

Jeff Howell is the director of Public Education Partners, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening our education system.