The Georgia Department of Education has selected six schools as winners of the new Military Flagship School Award, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced this week.
The Military Flagship School Award recognizes schools going above and beyond to provide a supportive environment for military students and families. Military Flagship Schools provide specific outreach to military families and recognize and accommodate their unique needs.
The inaugural Military Flagship Schools are:
- Columbus High School, Muscogee County Schools
- Crooked River Elementary School, Camden County Schools
- Hilltop Elementary School, Houston County Schools
- Lowndes High School, Lowndes County Schools
- Riverside Elementary School, Columbia County Schools
- Snelson-Golden Middle School, Liberty County Schools
“As the child of a military family myself, it means so much to me to recognize schools that are doing an exceptional job caring for Georgia’s military students and families,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Being part of a military family is a lifestyle full of transition and sacrifice. As educators and public officials, one way we can show our gratitude and respect for those who serve is providing a welcoming, supportive school environment for their families. I commend each one of these schools for their service on behalf of military families and children.”
Rep. Dave Belton, Chairman of the Military Affairs Working Group in the Georgia House of Representatives, added:
“The military provides $28 billion in economic impact to Georgia every year. The Pentagon has repeatedly told us that education is their number-one issue when looking at bases. That’s why I’m so excited about this Military Flagship program. As a child of a Navy officer, we moved every two years. I know how stressful that can be, especially for a high school junior or senior. This emphasis on military children will go a long way toward making Georgia the most military-friendly state in the nation. But most of all, it’s the right thing to do for the men and women who sacrifice their lives for our freedoms.”
All schools were eligible to apply for the Military Flagship School Award, and applications were evaluated by a committee including active members of the military, School Liaison Officers, school district staff, and members of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission.
Schools were asked to provide specific examples of their outreach to military families, including:
- Services and programs offered to support the needs of military students and their families
- Training provided to school personnel to help them understand and support the needs of military children
- Opportunities provided by the school to help military parents and their children connect with and feel supported by the surrounding community
- Efforts to help military parents and their children feel engaged and respected within their new school by creating opportunities to get involved
- Readily accessible, up-to-date digital information provided for prospective families (including regularly updated school and district websites and social media sites, future school calendars posted online, and information on websites about school offerings of specific interest to military families)
Every selected school allows excused absences for a student during their parent’s overseas deployment departure or deployment arrival day, allows online or phone registration for incoming military members from overseas Department of Defense military bases, and has a military buddy system linking incoming military students with other military students during the first weeks of school.
Each 2018 winner will receive a special visit from Superintendent Woods and other officials and will receive a banner (see attached) to display in their school advertising their status as a Military Flagship School. GaDOE plans to make the Military Flagship School Award an annual recognition, with a new cohort of schools honored each year.
Highlights from the 2018 Military Flagship Schools
Columbus High School, Muscogee County Schools
At Columbus High School, members of the Student 2 Student (S2S) student leadership program welcome new military transfer students by taking them on a tour of the school and serving as a lunch buddy, if needed. The Peer Helper program provides support to military students by offering peer tutors to assist students who are struggling academically and, through a partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), 24-hour, web-based tutoring services are available for all military students. The school hosts a pre-registration night specifically for transfer students, who are typically military. And there’s an attendance policy specifically for military families: administrators will individually consider military absence requests.
Crooked River Elementary School, Camden County Schools
At the beginning of each school year, Crooked River Elementary School hosts an open house for all incoming military families to tour the school. The school houses a Military Family Life Counselor (MFLC) who offers short-term, non-medical counseling services to military children, their parents, and the school’s faculty, with a focus on transition, deployment, and other stresses related to military life. Through the federal PROVIDES grant, Crooked River hosts the Connections Club, a support network for military children to express their feelings related to military life. The club encourages military and non-military students to participate to foster understanding and build strong relationships.
Hilltop Elementary School, Houston County Schools
Hilltop Elementary holds meeting groups to allow new students a time to meet and interact with other students. School staff share information about Hilltop Elementary, and students have time to ask questions about their new school and the surrounding area. The Robins Air Force Base Deployment Support Group holds quarterly meetings with any student whose parent is presently deployed, just returned from a deployment, or is about to be deployed. When new students enroll at Hilltop, they are introduced to the principal, who also welcomes them over the intercom during morning announcements. Students meet other teachers and support staff who also welcome them and provide valuable information to them and their parents.
Lowndes High School, Lowndes County Schools
The Lowndes High School website has a designated “Military Families” section where information specific to those students and families is shared. LHS school counselors provide counseling services and are trained in strategies to meet the specific and acute needs of military dependents. Counseling services include individual sessions related to military family life, meetings with military parents for individualized support, career lessons highlighting military career opportunities, and more. When military families visit Lowndes High School for the first time, LHS Viking Ambassadors greet and escort them around the school while answering questions. Representatives from each branch of the military conduct presentations and teach classroom lessons throughout the school year. And, ten years ago, LHS began streaming commencement ceremonies so deployed parents and siblings could view their child or sibling’s graduation.
Riverside Elementary School, Columbia County Schools
Riverside Elementary and Columbia County Schools offer easy online enrollment to military families, and provide easily accessible resources and information for military families online. The school offers a newcomer’s club at the start of every semester to help students transition into the Riverside family. Students also have the opportunity to be recommended for small groups dealing with the issue of parent deployment and facilitated by the school counselor. Riverside has many volunteers in uniform in the building throughout the year. Students may have a military volunteer read to them in class, present on Career Day, or participate in special events such as Field Day and Veterans Day. Military volunteers also mentor individual students.
Snelson-Golden Middle School, Liberty County Schools
At Snelson-Golden Middle School, a Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC) offers both individual and group counseling to military children and their families. The MFLC is present at parent engagement events and interacts with children throughout he day to offer encouragement. Several days a week, a lunch group is hosted for military students, and the school has a Student Ambassador program that connects new students with another student who has the same schedule. Because parents on active duty are often not able to attend parent and family events, the school uses Skype to allow them to participate.