BCA Vice President Awarded Friend of AMSTI Honor For Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Jan. 14, 2015) – The Alabama State Department of Education’s Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative on Tuesday honored Business Council of Alabama Vice President Victor Vernon with its prestigious Friend of AMSTI award for 2015.

Vernon, the BCA’s Vice President for Public Policy, was a Senate Fiscal Officer for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office for 20 years. He was instrumental in creating Science in Motion legislation in 1994 that led to the creation of the high school science initiative and its umbrella initiative, AMSTI, in 2000. Vernon is in his 18th year with the BCA.

BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said the honor bestowed on Vernon at the celebration hosted by the Alabama Mathematics, Science, Technology and Engineering Coalition for Education. The honor is the highest recognition for extraordinary contributions in the field of quality education. The event at the Alabama Activity Center was AMSTEC’s Alabama Science in Motion 20 Year Celebration.

“We are extremely grateful to have someone of the caliber of Victor Vernon’s leadership in establishing the legislation that created Alabama Science in Motion and encouraging BCA to support the importance of quality education,” Canary said. 

Vernon represents interests of the Alabama business community before members of the Alabama Legislature and state and local government agencies on tax, public education, and workforce training issues. Business is a direct beneficiary of students being exposed to and becoming interested in career paths and higher education that focus on math, science, and technology.

Vernon said that the legislation he worked on more than 20 years ago has led to Alabama possessing the largest math, science, and technology initiative in the United States.

“I’m very proud and honored to receive the award because this has blossomed into what we thought it would be,” Vernon said. “Many students have gone into science fields including females who were traditionally not involved as much in the sciences.”

Steve Ricks is the director of the AMSTI program for the Alabama Department of Education. He said Vernon is the ninth recipient of the award. The previous recipient was then-Gov. Bob Riley.

“What we wanted to do is recognize individuals who move the interest in science forward,” Ricks said.  “It’s our most prestigious award.”

While working for the LFO, Vernon directed preparation of the Senate’s versions of state education and general government budget bills. He directed the work of staff analysts on all tax, budget and other fiscal issues pending before the Alabama Senate.

“Victor in many ways is a teacher,” Canary said. “Over the years he has taught us at BCA to meet every challenge we face with good humor, optimism and kindness. He taught us that that every single person can turn impossible challenges into realistic opportunities.”

Vernon’s interest in the hard sciences as a component of school curriculum began when he saw an ABC News World News Tonight production about science education. He worked with then Sen. Fred Horn, D-Birmingham, who successfully sponsored legislation that created and funded Alabama Science in Motion.

“It became a perfect storm because when people saw it they liked it,” Vernon said.

The Alabama Science in Motion began in 1994 and its training component is now installed in the 11 teacher in-service centers and in most Alabama high schools, AMSTI’s Ricks said.

In 2005, Science in Motion was incorporated into the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative, commonly referred to as AMSTI, by the Alabama Department of Education to improve math and science teaching state wide.

AMSTI’s mission is to provide all students in Grades K-12 with the knowledge and skills needed for success in the workforce and/or postsecondary studies.

Science in Motion is the high school component of AMSTI. Alabama has 33 Science in Motion specialists at a public college or university serving the 11 In-Service regions, allowing students to receive high-tech laboratory experience, Ricks said.

More than 400,000 students in grades Pre-K through 12 receive instruction by AMSTI certified teachers every school day, twice a day, in math and science. About half of all public schools in Alabama are official AMSTI Schools.

Vernon earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and a Master of Arts in Finance from the University of Alabama. Vernon is a charter member of ODE, the national honorary fraternity for economics. In 1998 he was the recipient of the Steven Gold Award from the National Conference of State Legislatures for making significant contributions in the areas of public finance and public policy.

The Business Council of Alabama is a non-partisan statewide business association representing the interests and concerns of nearly 1 million working Alabamians through its member companies and its partnership with the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.  BCA is Alabama’s exclusive affiliate to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

-Dana Beyerle