School Earns Military Family “Seal of Approval”

School Earns Military Family “Seal of Approval”
Posted on 10/30/2018

Congratulations to Northern Shores Elementary School, who has been selected to receive one of the first Virginia Distinguished Purple Star School designations for its strong support of military-connected students.  This award was announced last week by the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on the Educational Opportunity of Military Children.

Fifty-five of the state’s 2,182 public schools – about 2.5 percent -- were recognized with the Purple Star designation in the state’s inaugural program year.

The Purple Star designation will help guide military families to schools that have supports in place for children who change schools frequently because of military relocations.  The program is modeled after ones in Arkansas and Ohio.  Virginia is the third state to debut this “seal of approval” program.

The Virginia Department of Education learned about Ohio’s program when families who moved to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton last year from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio were looking for Purple Star schools.

The program is linked to a federal agreement, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The compact encourages flexibility as children move so they are not penalized by divisions’ requirement differences in such things as school start age, course offerings, and graduation requirements.  A Department of Defense website for the compact says “the average military family moves three times more often than the average non-military family.”

Requirements for the designation include having a student-led transition team for new and leaving students, and points of contact at the school and district levels who undergo professional training, and a web page of resources for military families.

“The main benefit is received by the military connected student or transferring student. Schools who receive this award have demonstrated a practice of supporting the highly mobile student, explained Dan Dunham, Virginia’s military student and family specialist.  “These schools have provided evidence of strong peer transition support programs.  The school staff are knowledgeable of the unique needs of military students and how best to support them.” 

Northern Shores Elementary is proud of its Anchored for Life student transition program which helps students “to be happier, more resilient, and more confident kids,” explained NSES Principal Lori White. “Change is sometimes challenging, but this program helps kids to have the ability to bounce back from experiences like frequent moving, deployment, navigating a new school, and making friends.” 

Northern Shores also has a full-time Military and Family Life Counselor. “These counselors help children and families with school adjustment, deployment and separation, reunion adjustment, sibling and parent-child communication, and behavioral concerns,” explained NSES guidance counselor Maria Eiring. 

Close to 1,000 students in Suffolk Public Schools are connected to military families.  For that reason, the school division's Department of Student Services works closely with the area's military school liaison officer.  In fact, several SPS schools have been assigned full-time, school-based Military and Family Life Counselors to help military-connected families during the school day and throughout the school year. 

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