Fort Polk’s Education Initiative Receives MCEC Award

Some of the partners of the Education Initiative are shown here after having received the Military Child Education Coalition's (MCEC) 2014 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award in the category of Outstanding Partnerships in Washington, D.C. on July 30. From left to right are Rhonda Plummer, Parish Administrator for the Vernon Parish Police Jury; Renita Page, Curriculum Coordinator for the Vernon Parish School Board; Jon Grafton, executive director of England Airpark and Fort Polk Progress Board member; James Williams, superintendent of the Vernon Parish School District; Stephanie Sarver, chief, Plans Analysis and Integration Office, Fort Polk; Jim Tuck, president of the Vernon Parish Police Jury and a Fort Polk Progress board member; Col. Thomas Moore, garrison commander of Fort Polk; Michael Reese, chairman of Fort Polk Progress; Paul Sawyer, of Louisiana Economic Development; and Katherine Corbin, of the Roosevelt Group.

LEESVILLE, La.–Fort Polk Progress, the Vernon Parish School District, and Fort Polk, along with many partners, announced today that the group’s Education Initiative was selected to receive the Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) 2014 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award in the category of Outstanding Partnerships.

This annual award, announced by the MCEC at its 16th National Training Seminar in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, July 30, recognizes partnerships formed between military installations and school districts that serve military-connected children. Award winners are selected from schools and military installations around the world by MCEC, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the transition and educational issues affecting the highly mobile military child.  A delegation representing the Education Initiative and its partners was honored and officially recognized at the July 30 ceremony in Washington.

The Education Initiative partners include the Vernon Parish School Board; the Rapides Foundation; Central Louisiana Technical Community College; Fort Polk; The Greater Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce; Northwestern State University; Louisiana Economic Development; Louisiana Department of Education, and many military and civilian family partners.

The Bossier Parish School Board, along with their partners, have also been recognized by the MCEC and conducted a simultaneous press conference in Bossier Parish to announce their own award. The Barksdale/Bossier Connection was chosen for the 2014 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award in the category of Exemplary Partnerships and was honored at the July 30 ceremony in Washington D.C.

Two state partnerships winning these national awards from MCEC is significant, highlighting the value Northwest and Central Louisiana place on the military and the strong support our communities provide to military-connected families.

“The Vernon Parish School Board is fortunate to have such a positive relationship with Fort Polk,” said James Williams, superintendent of Vernon Parish Schools. “We support each other in every possible way and work toward the goals of each organization. This partnership has worked to develop the Education Initiative which has made a positive impact on all students in our system. Our relationship is strengthened by the leadership of our community and military partners, and Fort Polk Progress and its endeavors to improve our community.”

“A lot of hard, productive work has been accomplished over many years by the Vernon Parish Team and I think our partnership this last year has continued to grow and will continue to grow in future years,” said Brig. Gen. William Hickman, commanding general of Fort Polk and the Joint Readiness Training Center.

“This prestigious honor is a testament to the unique and strong partnership that exists among Fort Polk Progress, the Vernon Parish School Board, the Rapides Foundation, Fort Polk, and many other organizations across Louisiana,” said Col. Thomas Moore, garrison commander of Fort Polk. “The fact that two Louisiana partnerships have won these coveted awards only underscores the importance Louisiana places on the quality of life of military families.”

“Fort Polk Progress is proud to help facilitate the Education Initiative,” said Michael Reese, chairman of Fort Polk Progress. “This partnership has endured for almost a decade as we’ve worked to improve facilities and establish transition support services for more than 3,000 military students. Now, in a much more strategic approach, we’re working on educating military families about our district’s  performance, programs and opportunities; understanding Common Core State Standards; and providing nationally recognized quality education.”

Early in 2014, a strategic planning session led by educational experts from The Rapides Foundation identified key gaps and laid the foundation of the Initiative’s preliminary draft Action Plan. In its first four months, the partnership conducted an Education Symposium, Parent University, improved communication, established summer camps to increase educational  opportunities, and developed a draft action plan with parent input that will sustain the momentum and move the Initiative forward.

The Education Initiative has also recieved a certificate of recognition for the achievement from Governor Bobby Jindal as well as letters of congratulations from Senator David Vitter and Representative John Fleming.