The Georgia Department of Education has selected eight schools as 2022-23 winners of the 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.
This year’s Military Flagship Schools are:
- Berrien Middle School – Berrien County School District
- Bonaire Elementary School – Houston County School District
- Bonaire Middle School – Houston County School District
- Camden Middle School – Camden County Schools
- Columbia Middle School – Columbia County School District
- Frank Long Elementary School – Liberty County School System
- Matt Arthur Elementary School – Houston County School District
- Pine Grove Elementary School – Lowndes County Schools
“Here in Georgia, we are committed to supporting our military families and having the most military-friendly schools in the nation,” Superintendent Woods said. “The Military Flagship School Award shines a light on those schools that go above and beyond to serve and support military-connected students and their families – I offer each school my sincere thanks and congratulations.”
All of Georgia’s K-12 public schools were invited to apply for the Military Flagship School Award, and applications were evaluated by a panel of judges with experience in the education of military-connected students.
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
Every selected school has a way to recognize and know if students are from Gold Star Families. They allow excused absences for a student during their parent’s overseas deployment departure or arrival day. In addition, they allow enrollment with military orders, shot ID, or shot records for 90 days until the family finds a home or lease, and allow online or phone registration for incoming military members from overseas Department of Defense military bases. Every school recognized has a military buddy system linking incoming military students with other military students during their first weeks of school.
“I am proud to oversee the Military Flagship School Award program – and can also say that, as an active-duty military spouse with military-connected children, my family personally looks for schools that have received the Military Flagship School Award as a baseline of best practices for our military-connected students,” GaDOE Military Student and Family Specialist Rachale LaVoie said. These schools understand the unique challenges of military life and seek to support students and families, continuing to make Georgia one of the most military-friendly states in the nation.”
Highlights from the 2022-2023 Military Flagship Schools
Berrien Middle School – Berrien County School District
Berrien Middle School offers a new student orientation for military students that includes a military student representative to assist with the process, along with a Military Social group that allows students to meet throughout the school year. The school offers a “Hearts Apart” program that allows students to talk or video chat with a deployed parent during school hours, and online tutoring/homework help to bridge curriculum from district to district. Students have access to a no-cost After School Program that offers homework help, STEM enrichment opportunities, dinner, and transportation home. History and English teachers plan lessons that teach and recognize significant military events, and the school offers staff development on educating military students periodically throughout the school year.
Bonaire Elementary School – Houston County School District
Bonaire Elementary School has an assigned Military and Family Life Counselor, a licensed mental health professional designated to provide solution-focused counseling support to military students and their families. The school also provides a Deployment Group program, in conjunction with Robins Air Force Base, which offers supports for students with family members deployed. BES also provides military students with a student ambassador through Robins Air Force Base’s Anchored4Life grant to help acclimate them to the school environment. Students are encouraged to participate actively in celebrations like Veterans Day and the Month of the Military Child – everything from reading the announcements, pinpointing places they have lived and what life is like there, and sending thank-you cards to veterans and active service members to sending in family portraits to display on the Wall of Fame.
Bonaire Middle School – Houston County School District
At Bonaire Middle School, a Military and Family Life Counselor meets regularly with students, and students also have access to three school counselors with military backgrounds. The Military and Family Life Counselor also meets periodically with faculty and staff to provide professional development and training to understand and support military students. The school honors course placement in academic classes based on parents’ verbal consent if still waiting for transcripts, to ensure there are no academic disruptions due to military transfers. The Museum of Aviation is approximately five miles from the school and offers STEM activities for military families, and the school also offers an Anchored4Life Club which is designed to help with school transitions, leadership, and character-building.
Camden Middle School – Camden County Schools
At Camden Middle School, a full-time Military Family Life Counselor is available to assist with the stressors and concerns that are often unique to military families. A Connections Club is in place to welcome new students, support military families, and make the school a friendlier place – members trained as ambassadors give school tours and distribute welcome kits to students. The School Liaison Officer offers a military family school tour each year, offering services including school communication, transition services, special needs navigation, deployment support, and more. Additionally, the Kings Bay command at the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT) has adopted CMS as their school for the 2022-23 school year. They volunteer with robotics, tutoring, mentoring, and special events.
Columbia Middle School – Columbia County School District
At Columbia Middle School, wraparound services are available onsite to meet the needs of the whole child, and a Military Family Life Counselor provides support to military students and families. The school honors military parents, along with staff with a military background each day on Veterans Day. Parents are provided with numerous volunteer opportunities on campus. Finally, students have the opportunity to participate in CyberPatriot, an educational program created by the Air Force Association. The school’s Cyber Patriot Team competes in area competitions and receives military mentoring.
Frank Long Elementary School – Liberty County School System
At Frank Long Elementary School, a Military Family Life Counselor and school counselor collaborate to support active military families and create a supportive environment for students. A Student Ambassador Program provides peer support to incoming and outgoing military families, and a True Explorers mentorship program pairs students with military veterans as mentors. The school partnerships with Hiring Our Heroes, a teacher internship/workforce development program that places highly skilled and educated transitioning service members, veterans, military spouses, and military caregivers with employers committed to hiring them. Finally, military students are allowed five excused absences for parent reintegration back after a deployment.
Matt Arthur Elementary School – Houston County School District
At Matt Arthur Elementary School, administrators, staff, and teachers work as a team with the school Military Family Life Counselor to support military students. The school holds quarterly activities during which the Robins Air Force Base School Liaison, Exceptional Family Member Program, and other service members offer an outlet for students with deployed parents to come together and share experiences. The Robins AFB School Liaison also provides professional development to all teachers and staff to help them understand the unique challenges faced by military children who move repeatedly and often deal with a parent being deployed for long periods of time. The school also provides care packages for deployed military members, and each year fifth-grade students raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Pine Grove Elementary School – Lowndes County Schools
At Pine Grove Elementary School, the full-time Military Family Life Counselor provides one-on-one, group, and family nonmedical counseling services to military students and families. During classroom lessons, the school provides discussion and education regarding the challenges military families face – such as moving frequently, family deployments, and academic changes. The school has a mentorship program/breakfast club for students of deployed parents: active duty service members from Moody Air Force Base attend and mentor students, and when the child’s parent returns home, the club enjoys a “welcome home” celebration with the returning parent. The school has a strong collaborative relationship with Moody Air Force Base; staff from the base provide support and volunteer services, and the school partners with the base to provide a free bus route so students can easily participate in before- and after-school programs at the youth center.