Promoting The Best For School Children
August 10, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--With the school year beginning, it’s time for Barbara Williams to sit back and breathe a sigh of relief.
The Garrison school liaison officer has had a busy summer. As the September deadline nears for all Department of the Army moves related to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, Redstone Arsenal has welcomed hundreds of new employees. With those employees have come families " and school-age children.
And that’s what’s kept Williams busy. She has spent the summer providing information on area school systems and schools to new Redstone-connected families with school-age children, both by email and through one-on-one meetings in her office at Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation’s Child Youth and School Services, building 1500. School handbooks, uniform policies, documents needed for registration, the area’s school zones, school calendars, graduation requirements, after-school care and busing are all topics that families new to the area want to know about.
“This summer has been the busiest since I’ve been here,” said Williams, who has served as the school liaison officer for nearly three years following a 32-year career with Huntsville City Schools. “The number of parents who have come to see me has probably tripled. We have a lot of senior leaders, Army civilians and contractors all wanting school information. We have a lot of email traffic from parents moving their families here from all over the U.S. and the world. And I’m here to help them.”
Those new families are invited to a Youth Services Open House at the Youth Center this Friday at 5:30 p.m. The families will be given information about local middle and high schools, and after-school programs. They will also be provided with information on two programs designed to make it easier for their children to transition into a new school " Youth Sponsorship Clubs and the Student To Student School Transition Support Program.
“One of the big ways we help families is by meeting with them one-on-one and giving them the information they need to decide what school system or school is best for their children, and what the process is to get them enrolled,” Williams said. “A school liaison gives parents the confidence that they have a professional who knows the school districts, the personnel, the programs, the strengths and the areas of improvement within the schools. Parents can be more competent and at ease knowing they can get advice from a professional who does not have a bias to one school or another.
“But beyond that, we also provide support for programs within the schools that help our federally-connected children make an easier transition and that help them be successful.”
Even though the school year has officially started and most new Redstone-connected children now know where they will attend school, Williams won’t be able to sit back and relax for long. She will spend the school year introducing school liaison programs to new principals, solidifying working relationships between Garrison and the school systems, attending school-related meetings, advocating for Redstone-connected families, promoting Impact Aid and federal grant programs, providing advice to the Garrison commander on a subject matter expert on educational issues, and supporting local education efforts, among other things.
“We are a resource both to our parents and children who need information and support, and to the school systems who serve federally-connected children,” Williams said. “The schools are very receptive to our involvement.”
Williams’ one-on-one contact with a new family often ends once their school-age children are transitioned into a local school system. But there are times when she may work with them again during their children’s school career.
“They may have some issues in the school or some concerns that they need help with,” she said. “That can be anything from a child not being challenged to bullying to not adjusting well to the school. When this happens, I usually provide the parents with information on how to be an advocate for their child, and help them to determine who in the school they should talk to.
“If they need me, I have actually gone with the parents to meetings with school officials. But I prefer to empower them in the situation by giving them the tools they need.”
Williams may also see a family again if they are transitioning on to another location and need assistance with obtaining school information in another area. Or, they may simply come into contact with Williams again as she is working on their children’s behalf in the schools.
“My hope is that our children will enter a school environment where they can achieve above and beyond what they ever imagined, and that it will be a safe and inviting place. My hope is there will be wonderful partnerships between schools and parents, and that we can all work together to prepare children to be tomorrow’s leaders,” Williams said.
Editor’s note: School Liaison Services can be reached by calling 842-9642 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, there are several other programs
offered by Child Youth and School Services to augment the school experience for Redstone-connected children. Those programs include after-school transportation and after-school programs, home school support services, military operation school supplies, homework labs, adopt-a-school partnerships, after-school tutoring, sports programs, and Skies Unlimited programs. For more information on Child Youth and School Services, call 876-3704.