01/07/09 — Children of active military at 10 percent

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Children of active military at 10 percent

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 7, 2009 1:46 PM

Active duty military students currently make up at least 10 percent of the population in Wayne County Public Schools, officials say.

According to the latest figures for 2007, the district has 1,860 students of active military parents, said Jamie Livengood, military counselor hired in March.

That does not include National Guard and students being displaced because parents are deployed and move here from other areas, Mrs. Livengood said.

The greatest challenge of her job, however, goes beyond a head count.

"I have numbers but not names," she said. "How can we identify them and make sure they're being served?"

A grassroots survey conducted at Charles B. Aycock High School at the beginning of the school year reported 255 out of 1,258 students had military connections, Mrs. Livengood said. That equates to 20.3 percent of the school's students.

"We would not have known who they were and could not have served them in a counseling group," she said. "It's good for us to know that number and also that shift. We need to know where that population shift has occurred."

Historically, the dominant schools with military ties were those closest to the base -- Meadow Lane Elementary and Greenwood Middle. These days, there is representation in each of the county's schools, with a growing number in the northern end of the county, matching the housing pattern shift.

In an area where the military is prominent, efforts have been made to enhance the relationship with the school system. In recent years, a school liaison position was created at Seymour Johnson and in 2004 the base entered into a partnership with the school system to affiliate with the Military Child Education Coalition

North Carolina is also a "friendly military state," Mrs. Livengood said, noting it was the first to put military counselors into place in schools.

"Wayne County is only one of three in this state that has a military counselor position," she said. As such, her role is to research, develop and implement programs and practices that will support the military students in the district.

That could be anything from responding to deployment and transition issues, to developing deployment counseling groups in the schools, as well as providing "tool kits" to help school personnel working with the military. It also entails activities around celebrations such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as well as military pride events.

In addition to partnering with the base and joining the Military Affairs Committee, a military counselor link has been added to the Wayne County Public Schools parents page on its Web site. Among topics covered are transitions, graduation requirements, transfer of records and a move in/move out checklist.

During a presentation to the school board earlier this week, Mrs. Livengood shared a breakdown of the military population in the county, which she said is divided into three tiers of focus. Tier one is schools with more than 100 military-connected students, while tier two has 50-99 students, and tier three has 30-49.

In 2007, the breakdown of tier one schools included Meadow Lane, 367; Greenwood, 171; Eastern Wayne High, 167; Northwest Elementary, 154; Norwayne Middle, 125; and Aycock, 109. Tier two schools included Northeast Elementary, 97; Eastern Wayne Middle, 92; Tommy's Road Elementary, 77; Rosewood Elementary, 73; and Eastern Wayne Elementary, 72. Those in tier three were Spring Creek Elementary, 49; Fremont Stars Elementary, 33; Grantham, 33; Brogden Primary, 31; and Rosewood Middle, 30.

Mrs. Livengood also discussed some of the services provided in the schools, such as counseling referrals made specifically for military students. The No. 1 issue, she said, has been related to deployment, followed by behavior referrals, which she said typically go hand-in-hand with deployment, and help with services.

She also mentioned N.C. Senate Bill 1541, Interstate Compact, introduced in August 2008 to address four issues -- school enrollment, graduation requirements, placement and eligibility for extracurricular activities. At a meeting of the district's Military Child Education Coalition later this month, Mrs. Livengood said that will be discussed, along with the local action plan in the district.