News: Bright future for Yuma's Education System, DoD awards $1.2 million grant
Story by Capt. Staci Reidinger
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. - There are over a million school-aged military children across the United States who attend public schools not associated with the Department of Defense every year, due to non-availability or parental choice. Additionally, the average military child changes schools four to six times before graduating from high school. All of these factors play into the quality of education and support military children receive from location to location.
In fiscal year 2007, the Department of Defense received authority in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act to partner with the Department of Education to help military families transition their children from DoD to non-DoD affiliated schools. This collaboration has since resulted in the development of the DoD Education Activity Grant Program which has awarded $195 million in grants to 162 military-connected public schools nationwide since 2008.
And for one Yuma, Ariz. school district, they were chosen to receive $1.2 million as a part of this program for fiscal year 2012.
Yuma School District One, which is the largest elementary school district in Yuma County with a population of over 10,000 K-8 students, will now join 25 other military-connected school districts from across the country as DoDEA grant recipients for 2012.
With several hundred military families in the greater Yuma area, Yuma School District One officials are honored to receive this educational grant for the first time. The District reports that for the 2011-2012 school year, 450 students (13.5 percent) in their district were dependents of active-duty military members.
"A perfect partnership: the Army, the Marines and District One," said Dr. Darwin Stiffler, Superintendent of Yuma School District One. "We are grateful for the ability to better serve the children of those who serve us."
District officials report seven schools qualify for support based on their high percentage of military children in attendance. These schools include Price, Sunrise, Desert Mesa, Rolle and Palmcroft Elementary Schools; Castle Dome and Ron Watson Middle Schools. The grant funds will be distributed across these seven schools to enhance vital aspects of course development and interactive learning.
"It will increase science achievement for third through fifth graders by providing extensive professional development for their teachers in how to integrate science, math, language arts, and technology," said Theresa Lowe, Yuma School District One special projects coordinator. "It will also increase science and math achievement for middle school students via the AVID [Advancement Via Individual Determination] program. AVID provides collaborative tutoring to support advanced math and science classes, extensive professional development for teachers, and common deep-learning strategies school-wide," said Lowe.
Awarded schools are also scheduled to receive interactive white boards, document cameras, and mobile pads for students to make math and science learning more exciting.
Beyond training and equipment, Yuma School District One plans to hire two full-time counselors to serve the unique needs of active-duty military children dealing with deployment, reintegration, transition and wartime stress issues. The district will also integrate professional development for other school staff to smooth school transitions for students and provide military family engagement activities, added Lowe.
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma extends warm congratulations to Yuma School District One and is looking forward to the strengthening of family-school-community relationships.
"This is a confirmation we are willing to invest in education for our children. Everyone wins and I couldn't be happier," said MCAS Yuma Commanding Officer Col. Robert Kuckuk.
This DoD education grant for Yuma earmarks a regional push by the state of Arizona to remove barriers to educational success imposed on children of military families because of frequent moves and deployments. On Jul. 27, Gov. Jan Brewer signed Executive Order 2012-05 formally establishing a State Council on the Education for Military Children. This council will work to coordinate agencies involved in supporting military youth education in order to assist military families during deployments and relocations.