The Crossett Public Schools Education Alliance is preparing to host its second fundraiser banquet.

Last year’s banquet raised approximately $17,000 for the alliance’s program.

This year’s banquet will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at the First Baptist Church of Crossett Multi-Ministry Center located at 703 Pine St. Big Daddy’s will provide catering.

The CPSEA is an organization dedicated to joining the schools and the community together to improve education, and last year they gave away more than $20,000 in grant funds.

“In southern Arkansas, we don’t always have access to the resources larger districts have,” said Leslie Mansur, Crossett Elementary School media specialist. “The CPSEA grants help teachers level the playing field.”

The organization offers grants to teachers and programs throughout the Crossett school district. During the last school year, they awarded a grant to the CES music department for the purchase of musical instruments and a few students attended the banquet to show off their new purchase.

The CPSEA also offers New Teacher Grants to assist new teachers with purchasing things to improve their classroom.

The CPSEA started in 2002 when William Thomas Stephens, who graduated from Crossett High School in the 1960s, learned that Crossett’s education system was not up to standards. He spoke to the community about his concerns and took the opportunity when asked to be the keynote speaker at the Annual Crossett Chamber of Commerce Banquet in January 2002 to not only voice his opinion, but to also challenge the community.

At that time, Stephens guaranteed $100,000 in seed money to pioneer an organization that would benefit the Crossett School System.

Stephens envisioned an organization that would hold administration and educators to a higher standard while investing in the future of Crossett’s students.

In 2003, Georgia Pacific matched Stephens’ funds and First National Bank of Crossett donated $50,000 as well, ultimately resulting in the formation of the CPSEA.

Since that time, the group has maintained status; and from the support of businesses, individuals, community organizations and class reunions, they have been able to continue to support the Crossett School District and offer grants and other luxuries that the district would otherwise not have.

Some of the funding was used for projects that included a major push to provide learning centers at the Crossett Learning Center to enhance the education of the incoming kindergartners. That project happened after the CPSEA learned that several students were entering kindergarten way behind the level the kindergarten curriculum is set up for.

Mansur had already began working with the school counselor on “makeshift” centers where students could “play and learn” during library and counseling time. Mansur said When the CPSEA learned of the project, they wanted to assist.

The CPSEA worked directly with Mansur, to come up with ideas for the proposed centers.

In addition, the CPSEA also reached out to local preschools in the area to offer new curriculum.

Each year, CPSEA gets a certain amount of funding from Forward Arkansas for projects that will improve education and educational communication in the community. This year, the CPSEA received $19,000, a portion of which was used to purchase new pre-k curriculum for any local preschool that met the requirements.

The Forward money was used for other projects as well.

The CPSEA donated $2700 to the Picnic with the Arts festival in March, They gave $4,000 to the Project Lead the Way Program, and purchased Kuder Galaxy software for Crossett Middle School. The CPSEA likewise gave $1,000 to the Teacher Cadet Program, and $1,405 to the CHS Agriculture Department to help with on going gardening projects and needs around the FFA farm.

The CPSEA offers other grants throughout the year that can be applied for on its Website. Sandy McDill was awarded a grant for $1,450 to purchase math manipulatives, and the funding to fulfill her grant came from the Forward money that the CPSEA had.

The CPSEA also partnered with students in the Crossett Middle School EAST program to help with a few of their projects.

All table sponsors at this year’s banquet will be listed on the event program. Ticket sales and sponsor table proceeds will go directly to benefit the Crossett Public School Education Alliance’s Operations.

Catering services for the evening have been paid for by Century Next Bank of Ashley County.

Live and Silent Auction items will be available.

Individual tickets are $20. Sponsor tables seating eight are $300.

They can be purchased at First State Bank, the Crossett Chamber of Commerce, Crossett Economic Development and Timberline Federal Credit Union.

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