Prairie Grove School District 46 finalist for Department of Defense award

Marine Corps Reserve member, physical ed teacher nominated district for its support

PRAIRIE GROVE – Years of granting flexibility and support to an employee has put Prairie Grove School District 46 in the running for the highest recognition given by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The district is one of 30 finalists for the 2016 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, commonly referred to as the Freedom Award, according to a recent release from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Lt. Col. Patty Klop (colonel select), who did five years of active duty in the Marine Corps before joining the reserves, said she submitted a 27-page nomination for the district after receiving crucial support. Klop also has been an adapted physical education teacher for District 46 for the past 12 years, working part time with students who have disabilities.

“It’s been a real source of stability and comfort for me over the years,” she said. “I’ve been on several deployments, and [District 46] has always been there.”

Klop said if she worked for a different organization or company, the high number of absences during deployments to Iraq, Germany and Afghanistan might not have been tolerated as they were in the district.

Each year, up to 15 Freedom Awards are presented to employers in three categories: large employers with 500 or more employees; small employers of fewer than 500 workers; and public sector. This year’s finalist group is comprised of 11 large employers, 10 small employers and nine public sector employers. District 46 is the only finalist from Illinois.

There were more than 2,400 nominations this year throughout the country, Guam-CNMI, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. This year’s Freedom Award recipients will be announced in late June, the release said.