“One of my favorite things about the foundation is that every chair is totally different,” said Mike Brumby, executive director of the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence, when discussing the launch of a new chair.
“It’s the year of the chair,” he commented during an interview at The Tifton Gazette office. Not only does the idea of a new chair interest Brumby, but how they come about is the fascinating part.
He said the launch of the Special Hearts Chair came about after Greg Millette, United Way of South Central Georgia executive director, contacted the foundation in early spring of 2011 about the possibility of a chair in honor of his mother, Shirley Millette, who’s a retired special education teacher and was also tapped by the foundation in 1991 for the Excellence in Teaching award.
Brumby said he explained to Millette that each chair is endowed through private contributions with a minimum of $25,000. He said in April, after talking with Joy West, Tift County Board of Education director of special education, and forming the Special Hearts Committee, Millette was given the opportunity to make the lead gift in honor of his mother. Millette and his two sisters donated $1,000. An anonymous friend of Brumby’s added to this by donating $5,000 in honor of his mother and his wife’s mother after he heard about the Special Hearts Chair effort.
Following this, Target donated another $5,000, making it the lead corporate gift, after the foundation applied for a 2013 Community Giving grant. Brumby said Target has a long and generous history of foundation support.
“This is a great way to recognize special teachers and special students,” West said. “We appreciate any support, and we’re pleased to have an opportunity to have a chair.”
She added that special education teachers apply for grants every year, and the Special Hearts Chair would be a good opportunity for them to continue that. Brumby noted that the idea to name the chair “Special Hearts” came from West.
He said every special education teacher that he’s spoken with loves what they do. He mentioned that the Special Hearts Cafe was formed in 2008 at Tift County High School under the Mikie Wolff Humanities Chair. This effort involved teachers Tammy Jones, Rebekah West and Venita Sandifer who applied for the grant.
Millette said he and his sisters and their spouses are proud to see their mother being honored for her love of students and special education.
“We’re excited to see this chair move forward to honor special education students and teachers,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the chair fully funded and providing special opportunities to the special education population.”
The TCFEE Special Hearts Committee members are West; Wanda Veazey, Tift County Pre-K Center principal; Janice Dorminey, part-time special education teacher at Horizon Academy; Jennifer Dorminey Herzog, TCFEE director (attorney); Susan Green, TCFEE director (executive secretary at Target); and Carla Miles, TCFEE director.
Anyone can make a donation to the Special Hearts Chair in honor of a special education teacher or special education student or former student. Make checks payable to the Special Hearts Chair and mail to the TCFEE at P.O. Box 714, Tifton, GA 31793.
The Academic Chair Endowment Program of the TCFEE was initiated in 1993. The purpose of the program is to provide exceptional opportunities for Tift County Public Schools to strengthen and enrich education in specific disciplines through a variety of creative learning experiences which are not a part of the regular curriculum. These experiences are made possible through funds generated from a variety of academic chairs.
For any questions or more information, contact Brumby at 382-7515.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.