COPPERAS COVE — The Texas Education Agency announced that eight of Copperas Cove Independent School District’s 11 schools are recipients of the new Purple Military Star designation created by Senate Bill 1557 and passed by the 86th Texas State Legislature. The honor is bestowed on school campuses that support the unique needs of military-connected students and their families. Campuses selected receive a special Purple Military Star recognition to display.
Nearly three-fourths of CCISD campuses implemented Student2Student groups during the 2019-2020 school year with every campus having this support network for the 2020-2021 school year. These groups and sponsors help welcome new students to each campus, providing them immediate support and friendship, reducing isolation and loneliness.
Clements/Parsons Elementary School Counselor Julie Armstrong is a military spouse whose husband served 23 years in the Air Force where the couple’s oldest son moved seven times in his 12 years of elementary and secondary schooling.
“We serve enumerable military families as well as employ veterans of the military,” Armstrong said. “We have a greater understanding of the hardships these families face, when students move mid-year or parents are deployed. We work to ensure a smooth transition for our military students through tours given by our S2S members. Our campus has a military family life consultant and a military liaison to support families during times of crisis or to alleviate the stressors of a parent’s deployment.”
Military parents, Shannoda and Derrick Gilbert, were both active duty with four children who are in three different schools.
“All of the staff members at each school know who among their students are military-connected,” Shannoda Gilbert said. “My kids were able to create a sense of belonging both in and out of the classroom because of this.”
CCISD is the only school district in the nation to be simultaneously executing five Department of Defense Education Activity grants that provide funding for the S2S program, Ranger Reading Camp and Tell Me a Story Night, Bulldawg University, and Together We Code to teach military children computer coding. The grants are valued at more than $5 million.
More than half of the student population on the campus of Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy are military dependents. Assistant principal Heather Peacock said CCISD has many initiatives in place to assist military-connected students as they transition in and out of the district.
“One of these is the military student identifier that helps our staff know who our military students are. Cove was one of the first districts to use this coding diligently,” Peacock said. “CCISD also provides a military student transition consultant for its campuses to provide support and resources to students and parents, as well as training and support for staff to meet the unique needs of military-connected students.”
Shannoda Gilbert said being a military family is very hard at times for both parents and children. “I was amazed at how CCISD makes sure military families have the support they need for each military child. They make sure my children experience a seamless educational experience no matter where they are enrolled within CCISD,” Gilbert said.
“My children’s schools provided a military student transition consultant for each of them. My children enjoy the consultants because they are able to meet other military kids and form a great support system within the group. My children tell me that they would help them with reducing stress and overcoming different challenges they may face socially, mentally and academically. As a parent, you always want someone to be there for your children. These CCISD military consultants are the people that I can count on to keep my kids out of trouble and provide them with resources to help them through the school year.”
Purple Military Star Criteria
Copperas Cove ISD campuses met each of the criteria required to earn the Purple Military Star designation.
1) Designate a campus-based military liaison that supports military-connected students and their families and offers professional development opportunities for staff members on issues related to military-connected students.
2) Create and maintain an easily accessible web page that includes information for military-connected students and their families.
3) Must have a campus transition program that includes introductions to the school environment and processes. Student leaders or ambassadors should be support or sponsored by a campus-based staff member; organize and host newcomer social events, facility guided tours of the campus, and accompanying new students to lunch the first week of school.
4) Offer at least one of the following initiatives.
- A resolution showing support for military-connected students and families;
- Participation in Month of the Military Child or Military Family Month or a partnership with a school liaison officer to encourage and provide opportunities for active duty military members.