Military life is hectic enough, and for parents, it can be even more challenging as school-age children frequently enroll in new schools—with new teachers, academic requirements and regulations.
Fortunately, military parents arriving at Fort Belvoir have experts who can help with these new challenges: School Liaison Officers, two professionals who work constantly to provide support services.
Wendy O’Sullivan and Jamie Albers are ready to offer any school-related help, not only on post but throughout Fairfax County and beyond.
“We work with incoming and outgoing Families for transition into the school districts,” O’Sullivan said. “We support Families across all service branches and, for Families in surrounding school districts, we can refer them to the SLOs covering those. We also assist Families when a public school may not be compliant with the Interstate Compact for Military Children and when there are issues regarding credit transfer and on-time graduation. We can connect Families with SLOs anywhere in the world.”
Always ready to help
“Parents should contact us as soon as they feel something’s not right,” O’Sullivan added. “When they’re ready to PCS, we can connect them to their new SLOs, so they have current registration information for that school district. If they’ll be home-schooling, we send them information and connect them with the home-school association on Belvoir. We’re here to help parents ‘connect the dots,’ basically; to make transition smoother. We work very hard with our school district to encourage as much flexibility as possible.”
O’Sullivan said the Belvoir SLO also provides educational courses for parents to become familiar with their new posts and school districts.
“We do training—with parents and school staff—on the Interstate Compact and military culture, and we have the ‘PCS Challenge’ that helps parents, students and staff understand military life. We also support parents facing unique challenges with their own children, like tutoring and social or emotional support, and we help parents navigate conversations with school psychologists and social workers during challenging times.
“When parents first arrive, everything is new and just being able to talk to somebody who understands the school system and military life is vital,” O’Sullivan said. “Military Families face a lot of challenges and we’ve got good programs.”
Critical to learning
For the staff of Belvoir’s schools, SLOs’ services are indispensable.
“Our SLO’s are absolutely essential to our work,” said Jamey Chianetta, Fort Belvoir Upper School principal. “They welcomed (Margo) Dias-Pareja, Fort Belvoir Elementary School principal) and me with great information about the installation and school community; helped us plan and deliver staff development regarding military culture; and they regularly connect new Families to information about our school system. We seek their assistance regularly and are always impressed by their dedication. Their background knowledge of military and education topics is strong, and they keep us informed about directives that impact our work.”
Chianetta stressed that the hallmark of Belvoir’s SLOs is their experience with military life; O’Sullivan and Albers are both military spouses.
“Our SLOs are knowledgeable about our school system and the military. They’ve built relationships with leaders in both systems, which benefit everyone,” she said. “Some of the most powerful things our SLOs do are information sessions on topics like special education, and seminars focused on making the next PCS move seamless. They work with Families requiring extra care to facilitate a ‘warm-handoff’ to the SLO of the next duty location and they bridge communication between the military and school system toward the ultimate goal of supporting student learning.”