FORT POLK - When Telisha Thomas and her husband, Fort Polk Garrison Commander Col. Jarrett A. Thomas II, moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana, a year ago with their kids, education was a top concern.
"Typically, we have had a host of issues and concerns when we transitioned into other districts, especially districts that aren't really affiliated with a big military community," Telisha Thomas said. "It has often times been a struggle, from trying to secure Advanced Placement and Honors courses, making sure my children's records are consistent with what they left from, [and] making sure they were included in some of the organizations they had been in."
However, Thomas' experience with the Vernon Parish School District has been completely different, exceeding her expectations.
"Transitioning into Vernon Parish School District has been one of the easiest transitions we've had," she said.
Her son, a high school sophomore, has been able to adjust well to his classes.
"It has been a good transition," she said. "I've been able to talk one-on-one with my child's counselors. If I have a concern, I will go and speak with his teachers by just requesting a conference."
For Thomas, a highlight among programs at VPSD has been its dual enrollment program.
"If you receive that associate's degree here in the dual enrollment program, it's an associate's degree anywhere you go. As long as the college accepts it you're good to go," she said. "Whereas, there have been some dual enrollment programs that are only useful to a particular college in the town or state where the high school is located."
Thomas said she was also impressed with the approachability of the VPSD staff, and their willingness to listen and work with the ideas of the Fort Polk military community.
"In general, I have seen a lot of progress [addressing] some of the issues and the concerns that the military parents have raised," Thomas said. "The superintendent of the Vernon Parish School Board, as well as the other board members, really try to embrace the military community."
In a year, Thomas has seen a lot of progress within VPSD.
"I have already seen improvement, work that's being done and progress," Thomas said. "I've actually been able to witness that and be an active participant in that progression."
One of the milestones in VPSD's efforts has been in updating its website, an endeavor funded by Fort Polk Progress and projected to be unveiled in July.
"With the website, they are listening to our concerns, [and] making sure they're putting things on the website that are meeting specific needs or concerns for military students," she said. "A lot of the military parents have come forward and been involved. I've actually seen where they have implemented some of those ideas that parents have brought up."
Another issue Thomas has seen addressed has been communication.
"That is one of the things that is a work in progress that they are working toward, making sure that parents understand what the school system is about," Thomas said.
She is happy that VPSD takes the feedback of the military community into serious consideration.
"The Vernon Parish School District is willing to work with us and listen," Thomas said.
She hopes parents will get involved in their children's education at VPSD.
"Being involved and showing your support really makes a huge difference in your child's education," Thomas said. "I just really encourage parents to (participate), so we can hear their voice and help to make VPSD a great district."