Navy Getting More Involved in Education Programs for Transitioning Children
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
GROTON, Conn., Jul. 28, 2003 Quoting late educator Horace Mann, Adm. Walter F. Doran told the audience July 24 at the 5th annual Military Child Education Coalition conference that "the surest way to scatter a mob is to start a speech on education."
Speaking to more than 470 teachers, counselors, administrators, parents and military personnel, Doran said he was happy to bring Navy support to an organization that supports sailors and their families so well.
"There can be no surer way of securing America's tomorrow than providing the best possible education for our youth today," said Doran, commander of the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Noting that it was chartered in 1998, Doran said the coalition has worked tirelessly to live up to the 2003 conference theme, "Staying the Course: A Commitment to Children," the admiral said.
"Your efforts have resulted in lasting benefits for our military children," he added.
He praised the coalition's achievement in creating a memorandum of agreement between military installations and school districts that support military children. The agreement makes it easier for children transferring between signing schools, Doran said.
Noting that the Navy was slow in joining the coalition, Doran said 130 school districts, mostly in Army populated areas, have signed the agreement. "Soldiers and their families are seeing the tremendous positive impact that a coordinated and cooperative plan has for transitioning military students," he said.
"It may have taken us a little while to catch on, but believe me, the Navy is on board," Doran said.
For example, the admiral said the Groton public school district has established an agreement, "which serves as an excellent example for other Navy populated areas to emulate." Other examples are the personnel excellence through cooperative education program in Bangor, Wash., and the Joint Venture Education Forum Hawaii, which has an agreement between the military and the Hawaiian Board of Education.
There is also a military representative on the board, and the board has established a "military culture course" for teachers and counselors. DoD has given a $500,000 grant to the forum to study and assess transition practices of military children in kindergarten through 8th grade, the admiral noted.
The U.S. Pacific Command recently initiated an assessment that identified some areas of strength and areas of concern, Doran said. Students and parents were concerned about having textbooks, adequate facilities and classes being challenging enough for students.
These concerns resulted in the forum developing a plan that will improve the overall quality of education for military children, he noted.
"The Navy is on board, and we'll stay the course," Doran said. "We'll remain committed to working together with our fellow services and local education professionals to identify difficulties. We'll also seek solutions so that we can meet our common goal of providing the best possible education for our youth."
Doran said, thanks to MCEC, the high School just outside his base, is one of more than 80 schools nationwide to be equipped with the Interactive Counseling Center. The center allows counselors to immediately act on any issues to smooth the way for military children transferring from one school to another. It also gives students a chance to become familiar with their new school's curriculum and extra-curricular activities.
"It has the ability to essentially eliminate 'surprises' for everyone involved," Doran said. "All schools need this capability - and quickly."
Emphasizing that freedom is not free, the admiral said while service members are away fighting the global war against terrorism, they're paying a steep price, as are their families back home.
"Their spouses have to play the role of both parents and their children are trying to get through classes while their minds are more focused on mom or dad being away," Doran noted. "That's difficult, but imagine our sailors who are also single parents and have to make arrangements for child care for a six-month deployment - and then the deployment is extended to nine or 10 months."
The admiral said in these uncertain and challenging times, the nation will be asking even more from men and women in uniform. And, he stressed, "they're willing to make sacrifices to ensure that freedom survives and that our children will live in a world free of fear. We owe it to them to show that same commitment to their children."
Doran's philosophy is "the services recruits soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen, but retain families."
"Sixty percent of military members have families," the admiral noted, "and on average, they move once every 2.9 years, or an average of six times before their children turn 18. By the time our military children graduate from high school, most will have been the 'new kid' in at least five different schools. For some of them, that number can be even higher.
"These moves are tough on our kids, but we can certainly make it easier on them," he said. "Transitioning to a new school is difficult, but it's much easier to come to a school that understands the special circumstances of a military students."