Sunday, September 16, 2012

Every School Has Its Challenges

At the recent annual meeting of the Joint Venture Education Forum, our school was the recipient of the  Norbert Commendation Award for our support to our military students.  We worked hard to be considered for this honor, and the process of applying for the award really helped our school to reflect on all the "little" things we do that makes a difference for our students.

Not everyone realizes the challenges that our military students face such as transitioning to a new school every few years or coping with a parent who has been deployed multiple times in their young lives.  Being in Hawaii might sound wonderful, but being away from extended family and support systems can be very difficult, especially when there are children who require intensive medical services or have other educational or behavioral concerns.  I marvel at the resiliency and the positive attitudes of our students and their families; they work with the school to ensure that their child experiences success.

Because we are the school that services the Schofield Inn, a temporary "home" for families while they await their "permanent" housing, some of our students attend three to four different schools in one year.  I can't imagine what these students must be going through especially those who are already struggling academically or socially.  Supports for these students include our Transition Program, Primary School Adjustment Project, counseling services, Triage meetings with Tripler Army Medical Center personnel, and peer reviews with the District and school staff.  Additionally, we screen all students three times a year using a universal screening tool to determine whether students need additional support in the classroom or from the Response to Intervention literacy coach.  Sometimes, because of their movement from school to school, students have fallen through the cracks, and by the time they enroll at our school, they could be two to three years behind academically.  Hopefully, the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by 45 states, Washington, D.C. and DoDEA will mean consistency in academic expectations for each grade level.

Although most of our students seem to adjust to a parent's deployment, there are some who do not.  We encourage parents to let us know if they feel their child will have difficulty adjusting, and our counselors keep tabs on these students, having a talk-story Lunch Bunch or deployment groups on a regular basis.  The counselors focus their sessions on positive actions or thoughts to help students get through this difficult time and  provide them with coping strategies.  For many of our parents, volunteering at school has been a way to meet others and to do something useful with their time while a spouse is deployed.  We really appreciate their help!

Every school has its challenges, and every school uses its resources to address those challenges.  At Hale Kula, we have been recognized for supporting our military students so they can be successful.  We are proud to be recognized as the 2012 recipient of the Norbert Commendation Award. 

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