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New programs aids relocating students

By Tony Perez | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office | Oct. 11, 2007

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS — Children face many challenges when parents receive orders to permanently change stations. They must make new friends, acclimate to a new school and a new neighborhood, but some face specific challenges that can be avoided.

"I have a daughter that is two years advanced in math," said Maj. Joel Jones, 37th Mission Support Squadron commander. "She is a sophomore in high school and she is taking pre-calculus and calculus, and it has been a real challenge in the last two assignments to get her in the appropriate classes."

The Student Liaison Officer program was created to help families in these situations.

The SLO is designed to function as an intermediary and advocate between parents and school administrators, inform and advise commanders and parents on student education issues and promote parent and community involvement in youth education.

"The public school system in Nebraska did not want to accept Devon's records because the courses she had taken were home school courses," Major Jones said. "It took a meeting with the middle school's principal and counselors, the superintendent and the high school's principal and counselors in order for her to be eligible to take a geometry course in 8th grade."

According to Major Jones, the enrollment and placement problems that his family faced in Nebraska followed them to Texas.

"The school district here did not want to acknowledge her geometry course, because she had not received high school credit for it," said Major Jones.

"She didn't receive high school credit for it because she wasn't in high school when she took the course, she was still in middle school," he added. "We were on our own; we had no one to act as a liaison with the schools or us, or someone to champion our cause as a military family."

After an exhausting process, Devon was permitted to enroll in the courses she was qualified to take.

"Most of the cases I have seen involve high school students' credits transferring from one state to another," said Cindy Ybanez, 37th Mission Support Squadron community readiness technician.

Ms. Ybanez also has the responsibilities of the SLO for Lackland.

Texas ranks third in the country among states with active military personnel after California and Virginia.

Six of the top 10 states in the country that have a high number of active military personnel require the passing of an exit exam in order to graduate from high school, including the state of Texas.

It is a possible that a student can enroll in school one day and be expected to test the day after. Students might also be forced to test more than once a year, depending on when they transfer to the new school district.

"We don't have a choice of where we go or when we go, but we still have to get our kids into schools, and we have to abide by the rules of each state," Major Jones said.

"The SLO program is tailor made for families whose children need special attention," he added.

"It's very helpful to have an office that knows the landscape of the school districts and has the credibility to broker situations for our military families."

On Oct. 23, Ms. Ybanez will be hosting the Transition Counselor Institute Conference. The conference is designed to raise awareness in the city about the SLO program.

Each school district in and surrounding San Antonio is invited to attend and learn more about specific problems that military families face, and to raise awareness that the there is a program available to ease the transition problem for both parties.

"This program should be the second thing that military families with school-age children think about right after contacting the housing office at your next assignment," Major Jones said.