Gen. Tommy Franks' wife advocates for military child transitioning

Fort Sill_Preparations continue for the base realignment that will bring thousands of new soldiers to Fort Sill.  Many will bring families, which means more students will be enrolling in area schools.  The Army held a Transition Counselor Initiative Workshop on Thursday to assist area school counselors in learning techniques that will help children transition in and out of school.  Educators and mentors enjoyed a luncheon and training session with members of the Military Child Education Coalition.

Cathy Franks spent 34-years as a military wife, married to former US Army General Tommy Franks.  She is now a member of the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), and works with schools to help military children transition.  "We're sharing experiences," she says.  "We're sharing what other counselors have learned, and we're hoping that this will make the transition easier, and I believe it will."

There will be hundreds of new military families moving to the area due to BRAC, and many new students entering the school district.  "The community is very welcoming, and the community is very good with transitioning families, but I think the numbers could make this move more difficult," says MCEC Trainer Susan Heigelman.

Area teachers and counselors discussed ways to accommodate military students.  "What can we do to kind of ease those transition issues to make good things happen for our students?  That is what we want," says Cache High School Counselor Tammy Fritz.  They also discussed helping students to cope with death, and with friends moving away.  "I'm really anxious to talk more about this afternoon the grief side," says Fritz.  "You know, how to deal with students as they're going through loss of a parent, the loss of a classmate.  It's very important as a counselor to learn how to deal with that."

Frank's daughter attended several schools in the US and Europe, and had a nine week stay in Lawton.  She says students already attending school in Lawton should prepare to be welcoming to their new classmates.  "Goodness happens at the local level," she says.  "It is important for the immediate classroom that that child is walking into to be aware, and make the child feel welcome. You're better equipped already - better armed - to serve when you anticipate the issues.  So that is what we are trying to do here is just create that communication."

Parents moving to the area are encouraged to contact schools, and if possible visit, to find the school the will best meet the needs of their child.  The military has taken the same training to major bases in countries around the world, including Japan, Korea, and Germany.

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