By Lt. Col. Christina Karvwnaris, Air University Academic Outreach Office
/ Published November 17, 2020
The Maxwell-River Region Partnership for Educational Excellence is a group of individuals made up of Air University faculty, school district superintendents and faculty, state/local government officials, and many other organizations. These entities came together to tackle issues related to K-12 education in the River Region and to ensure that the needs of military personnel in the area were addressed.
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Alabama — Air University and Maxwell Air Force Base’s public education coalition, the River Region Partnership for Educational Excellence, is the winner of the Military Child Education Coalition’s highest award, the Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award for Outstanding Community Partnership.
The Military Child Education Coalition is a nonprofit global organization whose mission is to ensure quality education opportunities for military connected children. They presented the award Nov. 17, 2020, during their virtual education summit.
The award recognizes the installation’s collaboration with neighboring school districts: Autauga County Schools, Elmore County Schools, Montgomery Public Schools and Pike Road Schools. These stakeholders, along with other state and local partners, have expanded military connected children’s access to high-quality educational opportunities over the past two years.
“This award acknowledges the efforts of our team from across Maxwell-Gunter, who have worked tirelessly to identify educational resources from across the state and around the country, then get the word out to our military parents,” said Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University commander and president. “Together, they have made an enormous difference for our families in only two years.”
Air University and Maxwell’s public K-12 efforts began in 2018, and the efforts align with the Secretary of the Air Force’s Support of Military Families initiative.
Early on, members of the Public K-12 Education Working Group at Air University and Maxwell reached out to other installations for ideas. Air Force Global Strike Command’s Education Summit, the Education Advisory Council at MacDill AFB, Florida, and the Knob Noster School District’s STEM curriculum in support of Whiteman AFB, Missouri, provided lessons learned and inspiration. Others, like Joint Base San Antonio and the Hampton Roads military community in Virginia, highlighted the importance of collaborating with non-profit organizations.
“Now, installations have begun reaching out to the Air University and Maxwell working group for advice,” said Dr. Brian Selmeski, working group chair and chief of Air University Faculty Affairs. “One of the most important lessons members of the working group have learned is that there are no quick or easy solutions. Improving public education requires trust, patience and collaboration with community partners.”
While many installations struggle with the quality of local schools, Air University faces a particular set of challenges, he said
“As both a Numbered Air Force equivalent and an accredited institution of higher education, Air University competes to attract the most talented students and faculty from across all services,” said Selmeski. “As the intellectual and leadership-development center of the Air and Space Forces, access to high-quality K-12 education is especially critical to personnel.”
Some of the working group’s accomplishments to date include out-of-district enrollment policies for military connected children, athletic eligibility for children who reside on base but attend school in a different district and greater flexibility in applying to magnet school programs. The group has also succeeded with professional development for educators on the challenges children of Airmen face when relocating and improved communications between local schools and the military community. In addition to championing more quality educational options, the working group has also worked to give back to the River Region by holding educational resource fairs and grant writing workshops.
“This award highlights the incredible achievements possible through our amazing Maxwell-Gunter and River Region partnership,” said Col. Eries L. Mentzer, 42nd Air Base Wing commander. “We are proud of our accomplishments and committed to exploring continued K-12 opportunities together.”