NEWS | Oct. 13, 2011

School liaisons ease transitions for military children

By 2nd Lt. Leah Davis Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Ask any military parent what their first concern is when they receive permanent change of station orders and they will reply, "Where will my child attend school?" Parents have many stressors when moving and must begin planning for transfers between schools as soon as they can. There are avenues to ease the process.

The school liaison program at Joint Base Charleston has assisted more than 200 families with children who have gone through a moving process in the past year alone.

Although Chris Gerry, JB Charleston- Air Base, school liaison officer, and Cicely McCray, JB Charleston-Weapons Station, school liaison officer, have only been managing the school liaison program for less than one year, they have been providing many parents advice about inbound and outbound transfers, helping families understand the special education process and assisting with post secondary preparation.

According to McCray, since the school liaison program works with children in grades preschool through high school, and transfers from all over the world, every situation is different.

"We give families the correct information about [tri-county] schools and empower them to make the best choice," she said. "The information given to the families varies from graduation rates to clubs the school may offer."

The school liaison program also works with administrators, guidance counselors and teachers through "Educator Boot Camps" to ensure parents and schools have the most current information. The base hosted one of these boot camps Sept. 23.

"The educators had a firsthand glimpse of what a child feels like when a parent is deployed," Gerry said. "The boot camp also taught the educators to look for certain warning signs of a stressed child due to a deployed parent and gave them resources for the students such as online tutorials, SAT, and ACT study material."

The school liaison office is also an advocate of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children Implementation, an agreement between the states which ensures military children moving from a different state have no barriers on continuing their education.

The Interstate Compact helps military children in many different ways such as entering kindergarten, McCray said.

"Some students have problems when transferring to a different state, such as the county wanting the child to restart their kindergarten year over," she said. "This will hold the child back a year and the Interstate Compact can help justify the student continuing in the grade they are already in. The compact also helps with course placement and an understanding of absences related to deployment activities, to name a few."

Though military children don't wear a uniform, they face different challenges than there non-military peers, McCray said.

"Our military children truly do serve our country and they deserve our appreciation," McCray said. "They need extra support along the way; that's what we do and that's our business to make sure our military children are not left behind while their families are on the front line serving our country. They need to know we are going to take care of them."

The JB Charleston-Air Base school liaison office is located at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Bldg 500, and can be reached at 963-4438. The JB- Charleston- Weapons Station is located in the Youth Center Annex Bldg. 788B, and can be reached at 764-7869.