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Press Releases and Blogs

Rural Illinois Schools Receives National Blue Ribbon Award

The Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools is proud to join the United States Department of Education in recognizing New Simpson Hill School District 32 as a National Blue Ribbon School – located in rural Tunnel Hill, IL.

Imagine being a first-year teacher, in a school where kids speak 19 languages, in the age of COVID-19. This month IAART is featuring Kylee Payne of Monmouth, IL. Thank you to partners at Monmouth College, Galesburg Community Foundation, and the Teton Science Schools Place Network.

MACOMB -- On the road between our rural and small schools one of, if not the most important job we do is the transportation of our students.  The miles of morning and afternoon regular routes, the many stops and starts along the way, and the many hours and miles of extracurricular bus trips for band, sports, clubs and academic trips, require the best we can offer in transportation safety and reliability.

AIRSS is committed to its goal to provide access to quality education and transportation is a vital part of the educational process for our children.  AIRSS is excited to announce an exclusive partnership with Central States Bus Sales Inc.  This partnership represents AIRSS philosophy of finding the right fit and relationship to support the needs of Illinois Rural and Small Schools.  

“We could not be happier with the opportunity to partner with Central States Bus Sales.  This has been a work in progress over the past several months and Jeff (Jeff Reitz, President/CEO)  and Joe (Joe Wright, Director of School Bus Sales) have been great to work with and supportive of the mission of our rural and small schools”, said David Ardrey, Executive Director of AIRSS.

Central States Bus Sales has a long history in the transportation industry supporting many rural and small schools.  As Blue Bird’s largest school bus dealer, we are committed to providing outstanding products and services to our customers, and focus every day on fulfilling our mission to provide transportation solutions that enrich the lives of people. 

We are “The Bus Experts” because whether it’s our knowledgeable Sales Staff to help provide the best vehicle for your needs, top notch Customer Service and Warranty Support during the life of your vehicle or 5 Full Service Shops with ASE-Certified Technicians you will have confidence in Central States as your transportation partner. “Central States is very excited about this partnership and opportunity to work with AIRSS and it membership in it mission of helping its rural and small schools”, said Jeff Reitz President and CEO of Central States Bus Sales.

Service and support to the AIRSS membership is an important part of our mission, and the sponsor support program is vital to our success as an organization.  Reach out and support AIRSS, and our new partner Central States Bus Sales as we continue to support all rural and small schools in Illinois.

Please direct all questions about this partnership and how it benefits AIRSS members to:

Joe Wright
Director of School Bus Sales
Central States Bus Sales, Inc.

Dave Ardrey
Executive Director

Visit the Central States Bus Sales Website Here

Monmouth TARTANS, Students Share Rural Teacher Corps Experience

At a recent Rural Schools Collaborative visioning and planning meeting held at Monmouth College students from the TARTANS rural teacher corps program shared experiences from the program and answered questions from a national audience of rural educators.


TARTANS stands for Teachers Allied with Rural Towns and Neighborhood Schools and is a program not only developing rural teachers, but is an effort to improve the quality of life in rural schools and communities.  The program is designed after the Ozark Teacher Corps in Missouri and the national model that is developing from that work.  Pictured are TARTANS students:  Alex Johnson, Holly Reyner, Mckenzie Campbell, and Elizabeth Reasoner.


This program along with work at Western Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Quincy University and Southern Illinois University is part of a statewide effort to address the significant and growing teacher shortage in rural schools throughout Illinois.  AIRSS is an advocate for the development of a more robust rural teacher corps program and continuing to seek support at the state level for this work.


For specific information on the TARTANS program check out the website contact Michelle Holschuh-Simmons ( or Tammy LaPrad (

Non-Profit Arts Sector is Economic Engine for Peoria

The Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools (AIRSS) is excited to share the first of what we hope is many Official Proclamations to come in support of Arts in Education. It is an honor to partner and support this important cause with Miss Illinois 2019 - Ariel Beverly and we thank the City of Peoria and Mayor Jim Ardis for their commitment to the arts in the Peoria community and schools.

Beverly meeting with Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, who signed a Proclamation designating September 15 as Peoria Arts in Education Day.


For Immediate Release:

Ariel Beverly

508 S. Park Avenue

Herrin, IL 62948

Cell: 618-713-2216  Office: 618-967-8637


September 10, 2019


Non-Profit Arts Sector is Economic Engine for Peoria


ILLINOIS – While touring Illinois schools during this National Arts in Education Week (September 8 – 14), Miss Illinois Ariel Beverly is reaching out to mayors and other elected officials to support the arts in high school and recognize its impact on students.


One of Beverly’s stops was to meet with Mayor Jim Ardis who signed a proclamation declaring September 15 as Arts in Education Day in Peoria. The city’s arts community is becoming a destination for arts in the Midwest with museums showcasing Smithsonian exhibits, a Civic Center Theater, Sculpture Walk and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra.


“The nonprofit arts sector is a huge economic engine in our community and as the proclamation says, ‘we know that arts education enables students to develop critical thinking skills, imagination, discipline, and ways to express their feelings, all of which support academic success across the curriculum as well as personal growth outside the classroom,’” Ardis said.


Beverly has witnessed a decline of the arts and art funding in schools firsthand. As a former art student, art teacher, and now art advocate, she wants to see an art teacher in every school Currently, more than 80% of Illinois do not require students to take a single course in the arts in order to graduate.


“Another reason we need art in our schools is because low income students with a low participation in the arts have a 22% dropout rate,” Beverly said. “On the other hand, students with a high participation in the arts have only a 4% dropout rate.”


Although arts education is comprised of a wide array of disciplines such as music, theater, visual arts, media arts, literature, design and visual arts; many of those skills integrate with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program through projects like 3-D design printing, coding or digital art.


According to Beverly, students who are part of a STEM program gain a competitive edge when they also study art. This concept provides a holistic approach to learning spurring students to be innovative and think creatively.


“I saw students who had a fear of not being perfect or not having perfect grades,” Beverly said. “The arts can help with those issues because they learn that art allows for creativity and not being perfect. They get a chance to experience using a different part of their mind that they’re not using as much.”


To learn more about the #IncludeTheArts initiative or partnering with Miss Illinois Ariel Beverly in advocating for the arts and raising awareness in the Illinois school system, e-mail or call her media representative at 618-713-2216.


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