January 6, 2021 – The Georgia Department of Education has selected seven schools as 2020-21 winners of the Military Flagship School Award, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced today.
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:
- Chattahoochee County Middle/High School (Chattahoochee County Schools)
- Freedom Park Elementary School (Richmond County Schools)
- Grayson High School (Gwinnett County Schools)
- Pine Grove Middle School (Lowndes County Schools)
- St. Marys Elementary School (Camden County Schools)
- Waldo Pafford Elementary School (Liberty County Schools)
- Warner Robins High School (Houston County Schools)
“It's my goal that Georgia will have the most military-friendly schools in the nation, addressing and accommodating the needs of the military families who make sacrifices on our behalf," Superintendent Woods said. “As someone who grew up in a military family myself, it is a joy to honor these seven schools for going above and beyond to serve and support military children."
"As a child of a naval officer who has moved fifteen times in my life, I know firsthand how important it is that a school welcome its military children," said Representative Dave Belton, Chairman of the Georgia House Study Committee on Military Affairs. "Perhaps even more important, the Pentagon has stated over and over again that quality schools are their number-one focus for new missions and the jobs that they provide. This program is absolutely vital, not only to the military children who we gratefully serve, but also to the economic health of Georgia. I applaud Superintendent Woods for his vision, and of course our wonderful teachers."
All schools were eligible to apply for the Military Flagship School Award, and applications were evaluated by 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 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 allows excused absences for students during a parent's overseas deployment departure or arrival day; allows enrollment with military orders, military ID, or shot records for 90 days until the family finds a home or lease; and allows online or phone registration for incoming military members from overseas Department of Defense military bases.
Each winner will receive a special visit (as COVID-19 protocols and guidelines allow) from Superintendent Woods and other officials and will receive a banner to display in their school advertising their status as a Military Flagship School.
Highlights from the 2020-21 Military Flagship Schools
Chattahoochee County Middle High School – Chattahoochee County Schools
At Chattahoochee County Middle High School, more than 65 percent of the student population is military-connected, and serving those students and their families is woven into the everyday fabric of school life. CCMHS hosts an annual parent town hall at Fort Benning to provide military families an opportunity to meet administrators and review school system procedures. The assigned School Liaison Officer works collaboratively with the school and district, attending monthly Board of Education meetings and school faculty meetings to ensure that communication is seamless and families living on base are supported. The inclusion of a College and Career Academy within the school building ensures immediate resources are available for military families, to assist students in completing high-school graduation requirements and obtaining transferable postsecondary credits. The school provides weekly group meetings with a Military Life Counselor, offers four levels of JROTC, honors Gold Star Families each year through a school broadcast, hosts an annual Veterans Day Ceremony, and recognizes students during the Month of the Military Child.
Freedom Park School – Richmond County Schools
Freedom Park is located on Fort Gordon but is a public school in the Richmond County School District. Approximately 95 percent of students are military-connected, meaning they have at least one parent who is an active-duty member of the U.S. Military. To support military students and families, the school offers a monthly student orientation, livestreams honors programs so deployed family members have the opportunity to participate, and provides specific counseling services, including a support group for students whose parents are deployed. Military & Family Life Counselors meet monthly with teachers to discuss aspects of military life that can cause stress for students, and when a family member is preparing for or returning from a deployment, military students are given five additional days of excused absences. Freedom Park also offers a Soldiers Who Read program, partnering with a unit on post that comes in to read to students in uniform. This helps students feel connected to the post community and can provide comfort to a child whose parent is deployed.
Grayson High School – Gwinnett County Schools
Grayson High School has a fully developed Army ROTC program and, throughout the year, offers college preparation meetings, financial aid evenings, and registration meetings to ensure opportunities are shared with military parents and students. To celebrate the accomplishments of military students, the ROTC program and teachers hold a yearly Military Ball. The school allows excused absences for students during a parent's overseas deployment departure or arrival day; allows enrollment with military orders, military ID, or shot records for 90 days until the family finds a home or lease; and allows online or phone registration for incoming military members from overseas Department of Defense military bases.
Pine Grove Middle School – Lowndes County Schools
At Pine Grove Middle School, establishing procedures and services to support military-connected students is a top priority. School counselors work to ensure an empathetic environment that focuses on the specific needs of military-connected students through individual counseling, small groups, and referral to on-base or community counseling as needed. The school partners with the Moody Air Force Base Youth Center to provide a bus route so students can easily participate in afterschool programs. Staff receive ongoing professional development to help them understand how to address the specific needs of military students and families. Upon entering the school building, there is a display highlighting military students and their achievements, and Moody Squadron banners hang in the hallways. The school also takes advantage of the specialized skills and technological abilities of airmen at Moody AFB. The Moody Weather Division has co-taught lessons to sixth-grade students studying meteorology, and Pine Grove was the first middle school in South Georgia to receive GaDOE STEM certification – an accomplishment the school attributes to the efforts of Moody AFB as a STEM partner.
St. Marys Elementary School – Camden County Schools
Through a collaboration with the Department of Defense, a Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC) works at every school in Camden County to support the needs of military-connected students. At St. Marys Elementary, a Connections Club and military Adopt-a-School events provide resources for students and the opportunity to have military personnel come into the school throughout the year. The MFLC meets with staff in small- and large-group settings for discussions and training concerning the struggles and opportunities of military life, is available to interact with students and families during breakfast each morning, hosts a Lunch Bunch for students, and arranges opportunities for military families to volunteer at the school. St. Marys Elementary hosts specific Military Family Tours for new students and families, and sponsors multiple military awareness events throughout the year.
Waldo Pafford Elementary School – Liberty County Schools
Waldo Pafford Elementary School provides multiple outreach programs specifically targeted to military families and children, including deployment and transition groups and recognitions such as the Month of the Military Child and Month of the Military Family. The school-based Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC) provides professional learning to help school personnel understand and support the needs of military-connected children. The school works to provide high-quality opportunities to all students, including afterschool enrichment, a mentor/mentee program, a comprehensive school counseling program, National Junior Honor Society, and National Junior Beta Club. There are multiple opportunities for meaningful parent engagement, including parent roundtable discussions and military parent luncheons.
Warner Robins High School – Houston County Schools
At Warner Robins High School, a Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC) provides solution-focused counseling support to military-connected students and their families, and works closely with teachers and staff to strengthen the support and understanding needed during transitions, deployments, and military life in general. The school also employs two Family Engagement Coordinators, both of whom are military spouses and have firsthand understanding of military families. The FECs keep families engaged through social media, newsletters, and workshops and events for families. Each year, the school hosts Military Family Appreciation Night, and the attendance policy addresses deployment and other events of military life – including allowing excused absences to visit a military parent or guardian in a medical facility or to attend a ceremony for the military member, such as promotion, graduation, or retirement. All students at WRHS have access to numerous Advanced Placement courses, Career Academy courses, dual enrollment, and Air Force JROTC.