Education notebook

Band director Light honored

Ben Light, band director at Joe T. Robinson High School, is the 2023-24 Teacher of the Year for the Pulaski County Special School District.

Light was selected from among 27 other Pulaski County Special district school-level winners. He will now move on to represent the district in the state competition for Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

Light started working in the Pulaski County Special district in 2014 and was named band director for the Robinson area schools in 2017.

"In addition to his expertise in teaching music, Light teaches students how to think to solve problems, and how to care about themselves and each other," Jo Ann Kohler, director of fine arts for the district, said. "Since his time leading the Robinson band program, [he] has increased the enrollment from less than 20 students to well over 250 students in grades 6-12."

Ideas Matter essay winners selected

The Clinton Foundation has announced the 2022 and 2023 winners of its decade-old Ideas Matter Scholarship Essay Contest.

Mariam Parray, a senior at Pulaski Academy, was awarded first place and a $2,500 scholarship for her essay on improving access to education for girls and women.

Richard Liu, a senior at Little Rock Central High School, was awarded second place and a $1,500 scholarship. Liu's essay focused on transforming women's rights in Arkansas.

Mary Lyle, a junior of Vilonia High School, was awarded third place and a scholarship of $1,000. Lyle's essay addressed reproductive rights.

The Clinton Foundation has invited Arkansas high school students to address some of today's most pressing challenges by turning their good ideas into action plans. The writing prompt was inspired by the Clinton Presidential Center's temporary exhibit, "Women's Voices, Women's Votes, Women's Rights." The prompt asked students to explore ongoing efforts to advance women's equality.

PEER Network awards $579,250

The PEER Network has awarded $579,250 in incentive funds to 60 partner schools across central and northeast Arkansas.

The PEER Network is a partnership between the Arkansas Public School Resource Center and Crowley's Ridge Educational Service Cooperative. The network is funded by the federal Teacher and School Leader grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Through the PEER Network, partner schools receive training, coaching and job-embedded support. Partner schools also receive personalized performance management to ensure schools, school leaders and teacher leaders meet or exceed their goals.

The PEER Network uses a performance-based compensation system that provides incentives to schools when they meet their goals.

The incentive structure takes into account student achievement and growth, the development of teacher leaders, the support of school leaders and the use of recruitment and retention strategies to establish and maintain a diverse and highly qualified staff.

The mission of the PEER Network is to meet the unique needs of rural Arkansas schools and build capacity by empowering teacher leaders in a learning community.