According to the Department of Defense’s Education Activity, “The mission of the school liaison is to provide military commanders with the support necessary to coordinate and advise military parents of school-aged children on educational issues and needs and to assist in solving education-related problems.”
The school liaison helps military parents get their children the information and opportunities they need to succeed in a given academic environment. As military Families make permanent change of station moves from one installation to another every few years, school liaisons help parents navigate the requirements and become aware of special programs available in new jurisdictions. They let parents know which schools have open enrollment in a district or what particular facility offers a special language program or can accommodate a child’s special needs.
Depending on the installation, a school liaison sometimes helps facilitate an installation’s partnership in education program, which pairs Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force bases with regional schools to enhance the education of students at participating schools. Military personnel visit member schools, make classroom presentations, invite children to on-post activities like Earth Day and serve as tutors and lunchtime buddies. On JBM-HH, Fort Myer is partnered with Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in the District of Columbia and Henderson Hall has partnered with Barcroft Elementary School in Arlington County.
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall has two individuals who serve as school liaisons: Liz Barnes, Marine Corps Community Services school liaison manager, and E. Anne Daffin, the Army’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation school liaison officer.
Barnes explained how the school liaison office helps children transition from one school district to another, provides support to parents seeking to home school children, and collects information on graduation requirements, available financial aid and scholarships.
“In one sentence, the school liaison is the information resource referral for kindergarten through 12th grade —school-age military children,” said Barnes. That involves answering a lot of questions from anxious parents.
“I believe being proactive is always better than being reactive,” Barnes said. “So if Families that receive PCS orders to come to the National Capital Region can connect with us, then we can provide information on schools and programs before they ever arrive, so they can make the best decisions for their child.
“Families that are already here,” she said, “may be looking at unique programs, such as open-boundary enrollment … specialized programs … information on scholarships for juniors and seniors planning to graduate.”
“We want to give parents a checklist of items to request or bring with them [to a new school] — a ‘hand-carry and move’ [packet] that will make registering at the next location easier,” she said. “We can also connect them with the school liaison where they’re going, after they’ve gotten orders, so they can begin learning about the school [before making the move].”
It’s important not to have parents miss important deadlines for registration and applications, she emphasized.
People can sometimes be confused flipping through an installation directory trying to find the appropriate agency that can help them. The school liaison office occasionally receives erroneous telephone calls from people with questions about adult tuition assistance or the GI Bill.
Barnes said she directs those individuals to the appropriate section, namely Headquarters and Service Battalion’s Personal and Professional Development Branch, which handles classes for transitioning Marines, spousal employment and other issues. The branch’s contact number is 703-614-9104.
The mistaken queries can sometimes be fortuitous, she said. Once she’s directed someone through the proper channels, a caller will occasionally blurt out that they also happen to have a school-age child who could benefit from the services her office provides.