The MCS Military Liaison position is in SERIOUS Danger
Moore County Schools serves approximately 12,000 total students. A full 35% of children educated in our public schools in Moore County are part of military families.
Right now, those families and their children have no specialized support. The Military Liaison position has been vacant since the end of May. This important position has been left unfilled even though summer is an especially busy and stressful time for military families. Many new military connected families with children are moving to Moore County this summer. They will need to enroll their children in schools, find resources and services available to them in our community due to their military status, and make sure that their children's unique needs will be met by our Public Schools. They have no Military Liaison to assist them with any of those things because Moore County Schools administration and the Board of Education has seen fit to allow this position to remain vacant.
For years, our military community lobbied our Board of Education to provide their children with resources and services necessary to address their unique needs. It took eight years and three different superintendents before those parents were able to establish the military family advisory council. It took another two years for the Military Liaison position to be created. When the position was created in October 2017, MCS had the 9th largest military student population in the state. MCS now has the 5th largest military student population surpassing Wayne County Schools and Craven County Schools which have state funded Military Liaisons.
The Military Liaison position is crucial in our Public Schools. The position requires a unique skill set and a personal understanding of the challenges the military families and their children face.
The District Military Liaison position oversees the following programs within Moore County
The DoD Impact Aid for Children with Severe Disabilities (CwSD) Program
The Army Youth Program in Your Neighborhood (AYPYN)
Purple Star Program
Military Family Life Counselor (MFLC) Program
Military Impact Aid
In addition, the Military Liaison has the following responsibilities:
Oversees the Student 2 Student and Junior Student 2 Student program at Area 1 & 3 Middle and High Schools.
Attends all NCMAC and NCMAC Quality of Life Meetings representing MCS - Quarterly meetings for both groups.
Attends the NC Military Interstate Compact Commissions Quarterly meetings representing MCS.
Attends NC Military Liaison and School Liaison Officer monthly meetings.
Ensures compliance with the Interstate Compact and NCGS pertaining to military-connected students.
Conducts Military Specific Scholarship and Benefits Classes for both parents and students for all MCS high schools.
Oversees transcript reviews for complex and international transcripts for new students working in collaboration with school counselors
Assists foreign officers assigned to Fort Bragg with transitioning their children to MCS
Given all the above, the community has the right to know why two of our Board members (Philip Holmes and David Hensley) voted against filling the position. It can’t be about budgeting concerns - the position funds itself. Impact Aid has tripled since the creation of the Military Family Advisory Council (MFAC) and Military Liaison position and the position is paid for with that impact funding. It can’t be because they honestly believe that our military families don’t deserve the added support the position provides. So WHY are they so intent on abolishing the position?
In order to answer that question, we are required to look at the history. One year ago, David Hensley posted on his official social media page that he was recommending to the school board that the Military Liaison position be abolished. After a loud public outcry and tremendous pushback from the military community, Mr. Hensley dropped his attempt to get rid of the position.
Unfortunately, circumstances gave Mr. Hensley an opportunity to try again. Former MCS Military Liaison Rollie Sampson gave notice to the district that she would be vacating the position. She and the leadership team worked out an exit strategy which included hiring a replacement that would start a month before Ms. Sampson's departure. The overlap was intended to allow Ms. Sampson time to adequately train her replacement.
Moore County Schools advertised the position, formed a committee, reviewed applications, and eventually settled on a candidate. Unfortunately, for reasons that are not clear, the leadership team was unable to get the approval request for the new hire on the Moore County Schools Board of Education May agenda. When the new hire request finally made it onto the Board of Education's agenda, some members resisted approving the hire. They asked the leadership team to go back and provide documentation justifying the need for the position. The leadership team did fulfill the request, but the delay meant the position did not come before the Board of Education until their July meeting. Ms. Sampson's last day with the district was May 30th. Moore County Schools offered no temporary contract to keep her in place until a new hire could be made. Therefore, the position became vacant.
The new hire was approved at the July Board of Education meeting. But, the vote was not unanimous. David Hensley and Philip Holmes both voted against filling the position and both have stated privately that they will abolish the position at their earliest opportunity.
There's still one piece of this puzzle that I haven't addressed. The former Military Liaison, Rollie Sampson, has been a vocal critic of some current school board members. She was very involved in passing the bond issue which built three new schools and which David Hensley is on record opposing. She supported candidates in the last School Board election that ran against both Mr. Holmes and Mr. Hensley. More importantly, she is a current candidate for the Moore County BoEd and she is running in opposition to candidates who have been endorsed by and are being supported by Mr. Hensley and Mr. Holmes.
I can't find any reasonable explanation as to why Mr. Hensley and Mr. Holmes would be so eager to abolish a position that provides such critical resources and services to our military families and their children - especially considering that the position pays for itself through military impact aid. I can only conclude that the problem isn't with the position itself, but with the person who formerly held the position, the person who was instrumental in getting the position established, the person who has served in that position for the last five years, and the person that they view as their political enemy.
I don't want to think that members of our school board would deliberately refuse to support our military families and our students based on their own personal dislike of Rollie Sampson and their own political prejudices. Unfortunately, the way things stand at this moment, that's the only conclusion I can draw.
Military families need to be aware that members of the BoEd are actively plotting to remove an important resource from them - a resource that they fought hard to have access to. If Hensley and Holmes have it their way, these families will be back to square one.
***Commentary by Cheryl Christy. Cheryl can be reached on her Facebook page.