Faulkner County Retired Teachers talk politics

Published Friday, February 01, 2008

The Arkansas Primary was the subject of the Jan. 15 program of the Faulkner County Retired Teachers Association. Rob Hammons, Elections Coordinator with the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office, was the speaker. Hammons received a BA from the University of Mississippi.

He has been a resident of Faulkner County and Conway for the past nine years. He is married to Conway Public School teacher, Stacy Hammons, and the father of three children. Spending four years with the State Board of Election Commissioners, his duties included certifying voting systems, the development of educational materials and state wide training of elections officers, and working as the Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Administrator. For the past four and a half years, Hammons has been the state's Administrator of Americans with Disabilities Act Grants and has been the election coordinator for 21 counties implementing federal voting systems.

Hammons presented the FCRTA members with a calendar of the 2008 state primary and caucus dates and discussed the importance of the Arkansas Primary in deciding the presidential candidates for the national election in November. In his presentation, he stated that Faulkner County is one of the top 10 new growth areas of the state, and because of this, new voting machines are being purchased every year to keep up with the growth. Arkansas is one of the first of 15 states to implement election procedures which are now being copied by other states throughout the nation. Arkansas uses the electronic ballot insuring fair and accurate voting practices.

The passing of the Help America Vote Act insures that people who are visually disabled or unable to read have access to an auditory ballot system which enables them to cast their vote in private. Many other interesting facts were presented by Hammons who answered a variety of questions that were asked by those present. He said that this year's presidential election will be an exciting one for the state because two candidates, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former first lady Hillary Clinton, have ties to Arkansas.

A booklet from Charles Daniels, Secretary of State, entitled Voting 101, A Pocket Guide to Voting in the Natural State was provided for those wishing to take a copy. Those interested in becoming a poll worker for the upcoming elections were encouraged to contact the Faulkner County Clerk's Office.

Elizabeth Rose Black announced that there were 54 members present at the meeting which took place in the Fellowship Hall of the First Baptist Church on Robinson Avenue in Conway. The tables were decorated in a winter wonderland snowman theme. Charlotte Bell, historian, greeted the membership as they signed in. President Nancy Mitchell welcomed the membership and asked that first time visitors or new members introduce themselves to the group. Beth Henze, a retired teacher from St. Joseph's Catholic School, introduced herself.

Her teaching career included nine years at Sylvan Hills High School and 26 years as a science teacher at St. Joseph's. New member, Ruth Deaton, was a first time visitor in December. She is retired from the Arkansas Department of Education and is a licensed psychologist.

The meeting was called to order and Julia Fraser read the minutes from the December board and membership meetings. The minutes were approved and accepted as read. President-elect Carl Barger thanked the January Host/Hostess Committee chaired by Ova Lee Shelby and made up of members Betty Courtway, Jean Bell, Dottie and Pat Patterson, Peggy Sturgis, Carolyn Lewis, Florine Phipps, Betty Sue White and Mary Wells for providing the decorations and refreshments. First Vice-President Sharon Rapp, Chair of the Program Committee, announced the Feb. 19 program entitled Health: Taking Wellness to Heart. Mrs. Arkansas United States, Laine Berry, will be the speaker. Berry has been featured in a past issue of the Log Cabin Democrat's Women's Inc. and was photographed for its cover.

Jean Bell, Community Service Chair, will be taking the volunteer service hours for December and January at the next meeting. Mitchell encouraged the membership to keep up with their hours by notating them in the spaces provided in the back of the membership yearbook.

Linda Fullerton reported that more than 900 service hours had been recorded from the December Scholastic Book Sales Project which enabled the group to donate over three hundred board books to Conway Regional Hospital for distribution to newborn babies.

A report on the status of the newly adopted project, A Bookcase for Every Child, was given by Mitchell, who is acting in capacity of Reading Coordinator. The group was given an opportunity to sign up as volunteer readers for the local Head Start Programs. Members Betty Stevens, Ann Broach, Sharon Rapp, Edna Rives, Freda Prince and Janet Burks have been given reading assignments. Annell Kilman and Beth Henze signed up as new readers.

Any other person interested in donating their time in this worthwhile community effort is asked to send an e-mail to nancymitchell@conwaycorp.net.

Carl Barger, Chair of the Legislative Committee, asked the group to get involved in promoting the COLA provision passed several years ago by the Arkansas State Legislature. The Arkansas State Teacher Retirement Board will be reviewing the COLA provision in April. Members were asked to contact the Teacher Retirement Board to encourage the implementation of COLA.

Julia Fraser told the membership about the upcoming Corporate Spelling Bee which will benefit the Faulkner County Literacy Council. The entrance fee was discussed and anyone interested in forming a team and raising the necessary funds was asked to see Fraser at the end of the program. Parliamentarian Ella Reese agreed to organize a team to represent the FCRTA and President-Elect Carl Barger agreed to seek private and/or corporate sponsorship.

Mitchell announced the receipt of a letter from the National Retired Teachers Association in reference to a new grant which will support a "Mastering Money Management with Youth" program that will be launched in early 2008. The goal of the program is to help more young people learn sound financial savings skills. The program will be led through the collaborative efforts of RTAs and active JA offices (formerly Junior Achievement). Mitchell has been in contact with Julie Uritus, National Grant Manager, in hopes that Conway will be chosen as one of the national sites for implementation of the program.

The February Host/Hostess Committee was announced with Nancy Mitchell as chair. Other members include Helen Atkinson, Liz Workman, Bill and Ruby Graff, Julia Fraser, Audie and Elizabeth Lynch, Mary Mobley and Joe Dillard.

Janet Burks, Chair of the Scholarship Committee asked to meet with the other committee members following the meeting.

An announcement was made concerning a reception honoring retiring Arkansas Retired Teacher Association Executive Director Bobby Lester to be held on Jan. 17 at the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System building at 1400 West Third Street in Little Rock.

Lester has recently been elected to the board of the ATRS and will devote himself to these new duties. Members were asked to sign a card wishing him well in his new capacity. Those interested in attending the reception were asked to speak to Ms. Mitchell after the meeting.

The Telephone Committee, chaired by Paulette Herring, was thanked for their efforts in contacting the membership by telephone and e-mail reminding them of the meeting. With no further announcements, the meeting was adjourned for a time of fellowship and refreshments.

The association which is made up of retired teachers, administrators, superintendents, college professors, Arkansas Department of Education personnel and other retired staff of public and private educational institutions would like to extend an invitation to all Faulkner County residents interested in making a collective difference in promoting worthy educational and civic endeavors in Faulkner County. The membership is not restricted to only those persons who have been employed in the Conway and Faulkner County area schools. The FCRTA, which has over 277 members and is the largest retired teachers association in the state, is a local unit of the Arkansas Retired Teachers Association which acts as the 'voice' of retired educators and school personnel throughout the state insuring that the concerns of retired educators are heard in the state legislature and other governing bodies that impact the quality of life of its membership.

For more information, contact Nancy Mitchell at nancymithcell@conwaycorp.net.

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