The snowy day did not stop the show for Purple Day! and the MIC3 Summit at Malmstrom Air Force Base on April 12. Col. Daniel Voorhies, 341st Missile Wing vice commander, briefed base visitors about some facts about Malmstrom, talked about the MIC3 and explained some challenges parents face while essentially having two jobs: being a parent and an airman / woman.
MIC3, also known as Military Interstate Children Compact Commission, was created in 2015. It has been able to provide consistency regarding education and support for children across the country to allow for better support as children transfer schools due to assignments parents may receive. While not exhaustive, the MIC3 has addressed key issues such as eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation for children.
“The MIC3 is interested in ideas that can help military families transition. So right now, in collaboration with Great Falls Public Schools, we have a series of programs that we’re looking to launch. One of those is a pilot transitional Pre-K program that will start this upcoming academic school year, ”said Colonel Christopher Karns, Commander of the 341st Mission Support Group.
Superintendent of the Office of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen made a visit from the state capital to join the MIC3 educational summit and awarded Purple Star schools and champions. A Purple Star school must be a liaison between the MIC3 commission along with other schools and the community, offer professional development for staff, opportunities to learn about the military and being connected, and host at least one event.
Purple Star School awardees were Great Falls Central Catholic High School, Holy Spirit Catholic School and Morningside Elementary School. Purple Star Champion awardees were Kim Ray (principal of Morningside Elementary) and Joe Ferda (counselor at Great Falls High School) for focusing on the education, health, safety and wellbeing of students.
“The most important thing is to recognize that there is support all over our state for military children and families,” Arntzen said.
Arntzen wants to create a “legacy” beginning with the awardees of the Purple Star Champion to have like-minded individuals move forward in a larger realm, she announced during the presentation of the awards.
“It’s a choice of families to serve in our military, but sometimes our children don’t get that choice, and I think that’s what we’re honoring right now,” Arntzen said. “Thank you for doing your math and reading homework but also thank you for being a part of a larger family of service to our great state and national guard, as well as serving our great nation in all our military branches. ”
Karns presented the Five for Thrive, where the goal is to address the initiative’s challenges, promote community partnerships and improve the quality of life for military families. Five for Thrive initiatives include child care, education, housing, spouse employment and health care. As stated by Karns during the summit, these are “directly tied to military family readiness, resilience, and retention.”
Karns told the Great Falls Tribune that families do have multiple resources. Child care facilities are on the installation but are limited. An area to pursue a partnership with education is the Child Development Center, where students would be able to work and receive school credit that will hopefully launch this upcoming school year. Other internships and shadow programs are hoped to be expanded in other areas of interest beyond JROTC.
“We are trying to do new and different things, everything from the Pre-K transitional kindergarten program to partnering with high schools and universities for the Child Development aspects in terms of links to early childhood development,” Karns said.
Great Falls Public School Superintendent Tom Moore presented some facts about the district and offerings from GFPS to military children and families.
The main schools that feed from the base are Loy Elementary, North Middle, and CM Russell High Schools.
Moore was very transparent during the Support of Military Families report. The chronic absentee rate in military children was 6.5 times lower compared to the general population of students, military-connected children K-8 in 2021 scored higher, and the military associated GFPS seniors had a 95% On Track Graduation Rate (OTGR) in the last 3 of the 5 years. Superintendent Moore wants to improve the scores and percentages of all students, be it military-related or not.
The educational summit also gave a presentation, classes, resources, awards and a tour, and answered questions. Different departments in the school and Air Force spoke to how many moving parts are included to help create stability and resources for children, parents, and families that are needed due to scheduling, work assignments and moving, mental health, education and more.
Lisa Sapp, Malmstrom AFB school liaison, is a point of contact and one of the resources parents have access to regarding children’s education.
“So part of my position is I send a welcome email to our incoming families, and I also send goodbye email to our families who are leaving and connect them with their school liaison at the other base. I give a brief overview of our area. I have a list of the school systems. I try and make sure the families coming in have everything that they need to be successful. I have a great relationship with all the school systems here, our private schools and our public schools. ”