Fort Hood Education Summit: Relationships key to student success

By Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public AffairsApril 8, 2022

Karen Mayton
Karen Mayton, coordinator of testing and accountability for the superintendent and campus leadership of the Texas Region 12 Education Service Center, speaks about strong relationships helping with student success at an education summit at Fort Hood, Texas, April 5. (Photo Credit: Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - “Being able to coach a kid on their worst day is important,” Karen Mayton told the Fort Hood leaders and regional school administrators during the 2022 Education Summit at the Lone Star Conference Center here, April 5.

Mayton, who serves as the coordinator of testing and accountability for the superintendent and campus leadership of the Region 12 Education Service Center, served as one of the summit’s keynote speakers, focusing on building relationships, helping children and providing information on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams.

She said a lot of parents and schools focus on the STAAR testing and she encouraged them to remember that the children are being judged on a single test on a single day, without considering that not every day is going to be a good education day.

“How we’re doing today is great, but I want to know how we’ve done all the way up to today,” she said.

Mayton said the schools and parents should be asking a few important questions when they receive STAAR results: Did the school as a whole improve from last year to this year? Did the student improve from last year to this year? If the student failed last year, did they pass this year? If they still failed, did they fail less?

She said she lets her own children, who struggle in school, know that failing a test is not the end of the world. She pushes them to focus on the extracurricular activities, because the relationships the students make with their teachers, coaches and classmates is what will keep them coming back to school.

“Building relationships. That’s what it’s all about – making connections with the kiddos,” said Tiffany Sommerfeld, director of counseling and academic advising for Belton ISD, about Mayton’s message. “It’s not about that test, it’s not about coming to school and completing assignments. It’s building those relationships, because that’s what makes kids want to come to school.”

The summit is part of the ongoing Partners in Education Process, which Fort Hood created to enhance the relationship between the installation and local school districts. The process is aimed at being better informed in order to make important decisions impacting youth.

Maureen Molak
Maureen Molak shares how her son, David, was affected by cyber-bullying, which resulted in his untimely death by suicide, at an education summit at Fort Hood, Texas, April 5. (Photo Credit: Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

The second keynote speaker spoke about a topic that is becoming more and more prevalent in schools today – cyber-bullying. Sharing the personal and impactful story of her son, David, Maureen Molak shared how cyber-bullying affected her son’s mental health, which ultimately resulted in his suicide.

“I actually directed that this be part of the education summit this year,” explained Col. Chad R. Foster, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood. “Luckily, our team already understands the importance of this topic to education in general and the welfare of our military families. Military children are often the most vulnerable. While we often talk about their resilience and strength because they move around and adapt, when you transition to a new place, you’re automatically more vulnerable to these kind of things. I think it’s a very pertinent topic for us to cover and to hopefully bring together people to collaborate and be preventative.”

Since David’s untimely death, the Molak family has been pushing for stricter regulations in place against cyber-bullying. In 2017, David’s Law was passed during the 85th Texas Legislative Session, which makes harassment, bullying and cyber-bullying of a minor a misdemeanor that can be penalized. Molak returned in 2019 and pushed for more legislation to be passed. Some of the anti-bullying education requirements will begin being taught in schools beginning the 2022-2023 school year.

Molak said part of that education will be focused on the importance of standing up for someone, as well as how difficult that could be for a child.

“It touched me because I had a son who was bullied, so it was personal to me,” shared Vanessa Flores, a parent liaison with Killeen Independent School District’s Pat Carney Elementary.

Flores said her son reported his bullying, but nothing was done, so she transferred him to a different school district. She encouraged parents to really listen to their kids and stand up for their wellbeing.

“I just want to reiterate the importance of community coming together and addressing this issue from a mental health and a school safety perspective,” Molak said. “It really does take all of us coming together to make a difference.”

Following the keynote speaker messages and several breakout sessions featuring specific topics, a panel of experts answered questions about education. Some of the topics that were addressed included learning in a COVID environment, what students with an Individualized Education Program should do when moving to a new school, bullying and adult education services.

The garrison commander concluded to Education Summit by sharing that the most formative person in his life, outside his mom, was his AP-English teacher in high school.

“She made learning something we wanted to do, and she made us all co-owners of our learning,” Foster said, adding that everyone at the summit are co-owners of the education process. “We could not have spent our time today on anything more important.”