Col. Fern O. Sumpter (right), JBM-HH commander, talks to sixth grade students from Kenmore Middle School Nov. 16, 2012.

According to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's School Support Services, the school liaison officer is the "focal point of contact between the military installation, the local school administration, parents and the community at large. Specific responsibilities include advising the commander on all matters concerning student education and school operations; fostering a responsive, cooperative relationship between school representatives and the military community and maintaining school transition support for military children."

The Army school liaison officer for the Fort Myer portion of JBM-HH is E. Ann Daffin.

Daffin said the school liaison helps parents and children navigate from one school district to another during permanent change of station moves, helps identify special school programs available in a district for special needs or advanced placement students and assists parents who home-school their children.

It's important to plan ahead. Parents should call the school liaison when they get orders they're PCSing to another installation rather than when they arrive. "They're transferring from the familiar to the unfamiliar," Daffin said.

Daffin said an interstate compact among 35 states now makes it easier for educational credits to transfer from one school system to another, an important consideration when children in military households move every 2.9 years and may have attended up to nine different schools by high school graduation.

The school liaison officer is also involved with the Partners in Education program, where personnel from military installations adopt local schools. These installations provided school supplies and mentors, who participate in events like career day, exposing children to the wide range of vocations in the military. The liaison also helped facilitate a learning experience for three sixth-grade Kenmore Middle School students who came to JBM-HH last November to visit base Commander Col. Fern O. Sumpter and shadow her activities for the better part of a day.

Daffin recently returned from a 15-day church trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, where she and more than a dozen congregants visited an orphanage and a teen program that deals with youth alcoholism. She also pitched in painting low-income housing and visited Robben Island, the infamous former prison and current museum where anti-apartheid activist and former South African President Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.

The church group talked with children and distributed school supplies to youth, two things Daffin also does in her job as school liaison officer.

"Young children always need to be loved. It's no different in the U.S. or South Africa," Daffin said, comparing her day job with the missionary outreach she participated in. The difference, she explains, is the level of poverty she encountered in South Africa, where tall skyscrapers abut tin shacks.

"It's hard if you don't have the items for everyday living," she said, explaining how appreciative children in South Africa were of the school supplies, backpacks and clothing the group distributed.

"I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to go," she added.

Parents and community members with questions about school-age military child education should contact the school liaison officer at 703-696-3817 or elizabeth.a.daffin.civ@ mail.mil.

Page last updated Mon March 11th, 2013 at 00:00