02/05/07 — For base-schools liason, her work has always been about the children

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For base-schools liason, her work has always been about the children

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 5, 2007 1:48 PM

Nancy Mayo has made it her business to be about relationships.

A licensed marriage and family therapist for more than three years, it has been her job to develop a good working relationship between the public schools and the Air Force base.

With her retirement Friday from the liaison job, she now prepares for her next role, working part-time at Goldsboro Counseling Center.

But that does not mean her ties with the two entities are over. She was asked to continue to serve on the Facilities Master Plan Team and is on the boards for Smart Start and Communities in Schools.

The time was right for her departure, she said.

"One of my thoughts is, I think when you get to this point, it's not a huge step, it's the next logical step. It just flows," she said.

"When I got this job, I went into the colonel and gave him 14 points of what I wanted to do and he had the deer in the headlights look, but I told him we didn't have to do them all at once."

Much of what she set out to do has been accomplished, Mrs. Mayo said.

"I think it's time for me to leave and for the next person to come in and take it to the next level," she said.

Since she took on the role, the base and the school system have joined the Military Child Education Coalition and put together a plan of action to address the 10 most difficult issues that military or any mobile child might face.

Other partnerships between the two areas have also been formed, she said. Quarterly, the wing commander and superintendent of schools meet for an open discussion of issues, and Mrs. Mayo is a point of contact for new families coming to the area and for guidance counselors and social workers who need support for the military families there.

She has actually worn two hats, serving also as executive director for the community action information board, a position that originated at the base about 10 years ago. But it is the role of liaison that she would like to see come into more prominence.

"I'd recommend organizing military school liaisons in North Carolina so that we can have a more powerful voice," she said. "I think that they can share information back and forth as well as with those in the Guard and Reserves."

One aspect of that is already being recognized. Up until about a year ago, she said there were only a handful of school liaisons in the United States, although more could be found on overseas bases.

She is proud to have been affiliated with a base that saw the need for the position.

"Seymour Johnson Air Force Base cares so much about its families that it brought this on way before it was mandated," she said. "Families and education are important, and we made a link between the base and it's been pretty successful.

"We have got a great relationship between the base and the schools."

Mrs. Mayo said it was not a difficult alliance to create, since she had been previously been involved with the school system.

"I used to attend school board meetings in the early '90s, so I had developed a relationship with personnel early on because I knew some of the folks in the school system," she said. "I had also served on the school calendar committee for years."

In addition to helping families transition to Wayne County, her office handles tutoring, test proctoring and mentoring. There is also a lot of volunteering that goes on from the base, which produces much parental involvement, she said.

And in turn, she said, "One of the best things the school system does is welcome our children. They love having involved parents."

One area that appeals to some military families is the specialized Edgewood Community Developmental School, which caters to those with special needs.

"Seymour Johnson has a higher than normal autism population," she said. "I know that parents have deliberately chosen Seymour Johnson because of Edgewood School."

Situational needs, such as deployment, have also come under her jurisdiction. The challenge, Mrs. Mayo said, is in trying to maintain a normal response to an abnormal event.

"I think we have done a fairly good job educating in the last couple of year on the effects of deployment on children," she said. "One assistant principal told me that he didn't know that much about deployment, but a briefing we had made a difference and he took the child under his wing."

Guidance counselors in the schools have also done a good job of working with students, and the base has provided training for teachers and staff to create a better understanding of the process.

"We have brought them on base and done a deployment line for kids, teachers, guidance counselors and social workers," she said.

As for concerns like test scores and student performance in the public school system, topics that have surfaced recently in the community, Mrs. Mayo diplomatically said, "The base stays in its lane, so to speak.

"We recognize the job the schools and the Board of Education and county commissioners have to do. We're supportive of what they're trying to do."

Overall, she noted, "I think we're in good shape."

Efforts are being made for all sides to work together and Mrs. Mayo said she has enjoyed being a part of it.

A retirement luncheon was held on base in her honor Thursday and she was recognized at last month's school board meeting for her years of service. She expressed how bittersweet the departure will be and her appreciation for the support she has received from both the base and the school district.

At the same time, she is looking forward to spending more time with her family, which includes husband Dwight, their five children and 12 grandchildren.