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Program designed to speed transition

By Tony Perez | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office | Nov. 9, 2007

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS — On Oct. 23-24, Lackland held the Transition Counselor Institute as a way to raise awareness in the San Antonio education community on the specific challenges that military children face relocating from school to school.

This event marked the first time that the Air Force has conducted this type of workshop.
The program was taught by members of the Military Child Education Coalition, a nonprofit group designed to form relationships with military bases and their surrounding school districts as a means to ease the transition period for military children.

The workshop was held at the Gateway Club.

"The reality is that our on-base school district only handles 10-15 percent of our children," said the vice commander of the 37th Training Wing, Col. Eric Wilbur. "We want to give other school districts the tools necessary to help you serve our military community. We are in a very mobile society."

Six school districts had various school representatives present to understand the hardships that military children face in the transfer process.

Judson Independent School District, Northside ISD, North East ISD, San Antonio ISD and Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD are the five school districts not located on San Antonio military bases that receive the highest number of military children, and they all had faculty present for training.

These school districts, along with Fort Sam Houston ISD, Randolph ISD and Lackland ISD, receive financial assistance for teaching children with at least one parent who is active-duty military.

Military children have a portion of their education expenses paid by the federal government through the Department of Education's Impact Aid program, specifically by the military children statute.

The purpose of the Impact Aid military children statute is to provide financial relief to school districts for educating federally connected students.

These financial aid steps are taken because military and other federal activities bring additional students into a school district without proportionately expanding the local tax base.

Northside ISD, the city's biggest school district, has more than 1,100 students enrolled with at least one active-duty military parent.

According to Air Force Quality of Life Southwest Regional Liaison Dale Vande Hey, this was an incredible breakthrough for the Air Force.

"The Army has had student liaison officers for a while now to help with this process, but that is because of the support that the Army has received from the command level," Mr. Hey said. "The Air Force is starting to move in that direction and this program is a huge part of that."

Many of the teachers, counselors and principals present had some connection with the military, and were eager to learn new ways to help the communities and schools that they serve.

Community Readiness Technician Cindy Ybanez and 37th Mission Support Squadron Commander Maj. Joel Jones will be meeting with 37th Mission Support Group Commander Col. Bob Labrutta to hopefully begin the process of creating a full-time student liaison officer position.

The goal is to ensure that Lackland has an employee who can dedicate their time to helping military children transferring in and out of the San Antonio area.

"These kids will be affected for years by these decisions, so let's take care of them," said Ms. Ybanez.