You get permanent change of station orders. You find the perfect house in the best neighborhood. What could possibly go wrong?
Have you looked at the schools?
"We have an issue here where there’s overcrowding in schools. They don’t approve out of district transfers. Families that are coming into our area pick a really beautiful house and sign the dotted line. Then they find out that they’re in a district that has D-rated schools, doesn’t have the programs their child wants and is not a good fit for their family. It’s too late," said Julie Fulton, school liaison. "It’s really important they call us before they make housing decisions."
The role of the school liaison is to ensure the military family is being taken care of and their education needs are being met. They work with all schools to ensure the family gets all the information.
"We have three groups we work with. Our number one priority is helping families as they transition into and out of the base. Sometimes we’ll get a family that calls and says, ‘We want a good football program’ and that’s their priority. We help them figure out where that is in our area and what resources there are available," said Fulton. "We can also help them after they’ve been here for a while if they’re having problems with the school. They’ll call us and get advice on who to contact and what kinds of things we can do."
School liaisons work to improve the school systems on and off base to make them better suited for military children.
"We also work with the school systems. We do trainings for them… We teach them about the needs of the military child, what resources there are out there," said Fulton. "They don’t always understand that our kids are a little different. They have different needs and family life situations what they’re used to."
Commands are given information about schools in the area to disseminate to incoming service members so they can make the decision about housing before moving and schooling.
"Our third group that we work with is the command. It’s important to command that the school systems be in good shape around the installations, because if they’re not then a lot of times when people get orders here they’ll be a geographical bachelor and leave their families somewhere else where they feel like the schools are stronger," said Fulton. "We’re always trying to work with the school districts to improve them and report that back to command, so they can keep a pulse on how things are going in their communities and know their children are being well taken care of."
School liaisons work with children to improve their quality of life and improve on some key life skills.
"I work more with children," said Donna Grady with school liaison. "I go and do PCS classes with kids all around before they move, it prepares the kid. Most of the material is for the adults and so I try to target the younger kids and do lessons and groups with them. I go out into the Onslow County Schools and do deployment groups with kids.
We have military family life counselors in all our base schools and 14 of our Onslow County schools. I go and fill the gap if there’s not one of those counselors around," said Donna Grady, school liaison. "The kids enjoy coming out and making their own support groups to know that other kids are just like (them) and when (their parents) are gone they understand what they’re going through. It’s just like an internal support group for kids."
While they will provide you with all the information for any preferences the family may want they will not tell you where exactly to go to school.
"What we try to do is not tell a family (what school to go to.) We give them all the data and all the information so they can make a good decision on which school area is best for their needs and their family," said Grady. "We want them to have accurate information that’s current and up to date."
They will try to provide any information you request but the service members need to take it into account for their families. A lot can change in education over the years.
"One of the things that some of the Marines that have been in the service for a long time think, ‘Well I was a military (child) and I moved around all the time and we just went to whatever school our house was districted to and I was fine,’" said Fulton. "Education has really changed a lot. There are a lot more options. For example, in Onslow County they have a brand new virtual high school where the students can go to school online. They’re going to have an early college high school. They’re going to have a vocational skills center where (kids) can do special tracks."
Reach out to the school liaison to find the best school for your student’s needs.
"We’re always here to spread the news of the school liaison and to utilize our services. We find that so many families don’t even know about school liaisons," said Grady. "If they do know about us they think that we only deal with the (Department of Defense) schools and they think we are employed but those schools but we’re not."
To contact the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River’s school liaison office please call (910) 449-9749/9915.