Local

August 23, 2012

New school students here need not go it alone

Shannon Wilson (foreground) and Erin Schnitger (background), the points of contact for the Fort Huachuca School Liaison Office, talk with incoming Buena High School freshmen at the school’s summer orientation program on June 14. Many students took time to learn about the Tutor.com online service. The tutors do not simply provide an answer. They ask students questions in an effort to help them determine the answer through their discussion. Interaction between student and tutor takes place through an instant messaging feature

Moving to a new post provides military families the opportunity to explore another part of the country or the world, to meet new friends, and to advance professional development. But there is one segment of the military population who often view moving as a cause for concern — students.

It is normal to feel unsure about a new school, new friends, and possibly new after-school activities. However, it is a reaction that can be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated with the help of the Fort Huachuca School Liaison Office.

According to online information from Military K-12 Partners, a joint program between the Department of Defense and the Department of Education, “the Army has an active School Liaison Officer program on each of its installations. The Army school liaison officers serve the Active, National Guard/Army Reserve/Accessions Commands and geographically dispersed families within a one hour distance of their installation … They work closely with local school personnel to identify and resolve issues that impact transition military students …”

The support provided by the Fort Huachuca School Liaison Office goes beyond its assistance for education concerns and guidance for new students. It also is beneficial to parents preparing to move here for a post assignment or school. Command Sgt. Maj. Brenda Kadet, mother of a 9-year-old student, knows first-hand how vital this resource is, especially for those moving to or coming from an overseas post.

Upon learning that she was assigned to Fort Huachuca, Kadet contacted the post SLO while she was stationed overseas. The SLO “educated [her] about if we have DoD (Department of Defense) schools or not, what off-post schools are available, and provided a great deal of facts and information.” In addition, the SLO provided her with links to websites that offered the testing scores of area schools.

The personal connection that Kadet experienced is the main reason why the Fort Huachuca School Liaison Office is effective at helping students and parents find their own path to school success. Yet, it recognizes that this positive “customer service” must be combined with an ongoing effort to keep pace with education technology.

In March 2011, the SLO helped announce a new online resource for Fort Huachuca families called Tutor.com. It provides subject matter experts 24-hours a day, seven days a week for students in grades K-12. In addition to tutoring assistance in more than 16 subjects, it also offers preparation for standardized tests and guidance for advanced placement classes and college essays.

Although non-military users must pay $35 an hour, Tutor.com is available free of charge to active duty military service members and their dependents. The Tutor.com password and login information may be obtained by contacting the SLO.

While online resources are helpful they can sometimes lead to information overload and frustration. That is often the case when it comes to scholarship searches. Determining which scholarship website is best suited to each student can be difficult. Therefore, a phone call or email to the school liaison office should be part of the scholarship research process. The SLO staff can help parents and students navigate available financial assistance opportunities.

Another common hurdle many high school students face when planning for a post-secondary education is the challenge of varying state education requirements. This is of particular concern to high school seniors. The transcript of an incoming student that lacks completion of a mandatory class may prevent him or her from graduating. Fortunately, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is a tremendous resource that can aid SLOs as they assist students in these situations.

The compact, which has been signed by 43 states and applies only to public schools, “provides for the uniform treatment of military children transferring between school districts and states … It uses a comprehensive approach that provides a consistent policy in every school district and in every state that chooses to join.” Children of active-duty personnel from all branches of the military, National Guard and Reserve on active duty orders, and military members or veterans who are medically discharged or retired for one year are eligible for assistance under the compact.

Two key concerns of many parents, access to advanced placement classes and sports, have been addressed in the compact. Schools are required to find a place for an incoming student in a similar program, such as honors, Advanced Placement, etc. If a class is full the school has the right to re-test the student, but he or she must be placed in a similar class. Likewise, for extracurricular activities, schools are required to consider qualified students. For instance, if cheerleading tryouts are in March and a child with cheer experience does not arrive until April, the school is required to give the student an opportunity to make the team. Parents interested in further details about the compact may go to http://www.mic3.net/.

To discuss the compact or any other education issues of concern contact the SLO, 533.0874. The SLO office is located behind the Murr Community Center in Building 52111 on Tindall Avenue. Facebook users may follow announcements posted by the SLO at its Facebook site “Fort Huachuca School Liaison Officer.”

Kadet best summarized the myriad of support offered by the school liaison office, “That’s what they are there for. They want to help.”




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