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Connecting Businesses with Education

In 2016, when ground was being broken on the new Collierville High School, the largest high school in the state of Tennessee accommodating 2,500 kids, David Pickler, our Executive Director, helped form Partners in Education (PIE) which served as the fundraising arm for the high school. This partnership, which established a national model for public education becoming a true partner in community development with local government and business leaders, was a transformative step for public education. Working with John Aitken, Collierville’s superintendent at the time, together they visualized creating a new kind of school that could offer students an education unlike the typical high school.

David immediately got to work and helped form partnerships with the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) and the Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR), and created amazing educational opportunities.

Undertaking a capital-raising campaign for what would be the largest and most innovative high school in the Southeastern United States, we raised more than $1.5 million for enhancements to the new high school. They ultimately secured the bulk of the funding ($125 million) from the state and school district.

After the school was built, David donated the services of The Pickler Law Firm and Pickler Accounting Advisors to legally establish the Partners in Education foundation and eventually loaned APEF Assistant Executive Director, Cassie Foote, to serve as executive director for the new program.

Because of our work with PIE, the vision of creating “the high school of the future” was realized, delivering world-class workforce development programs. PIE partnered with local businesses to facilitate real-world experience for students: Landers provided a three-car bay for auto mechanics, Baptist Hospital collaborated on the school’s nursing program, the University of Memphis provided a state-of-the-art culinary classroom, and FedEx is now training students in aviation mechanics, and has installed a flight simulator. These partnerships have created an inspirational setting for our students to thrive in.

Over the past few years, PIE has been breaking ground on connecting businesses leaders with public education. The organization has hosted successful conversations between teachers and industry leaders, fostering a collaboration for future needs including technical skills and soft skills.

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