LEESVILLE -- Fort Polk Progress President Michael Reese presented the Education Initiative Annual Report for the Vernon Parish School District 2017-2018 school year at the Vernon Parish School Board meeting Nov. 1 in Leesville, Louisiana.

"When we started the Education Initiative, we were seeking to address something that I found very concerning as we sought to support Fort Polk. And that's that as you visited with senior Army commanders and as you visited with Army members who were destined for Fort Polk, we very frequently heard concerns that they had about quality education in and around Fort Polk," Reese said. "But their perception about that was really based on our state's general reputation for public school education, and it wasn't reflective of what was actually happening in Vernon Parish School District -- great outcomes for military-connected students when they were stationed at Fort Polk."

The report is the product of the Education Initiative, a partnership between Fort Polk Progress, Vernon Parish School, the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, the Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce and Community Stakeholders.

It aims to improve school performance and educate parents on school curriculum in Vernon Parish School District, which has a large population of military-connected students.

"One of our primary objectives in this Education Initiative is to better educate senior Army leaders, soldiers and their families moving to Fort Polk in the future," he said. "We really appreciate the opportunity to work with the school system as we developed this, and to work with military families so they had some input to say, 'This is the kind of information that we would like to see to better inform us once we know Fort Polk is the duty station we are going to be moving to in the future.'"

The annual report details the district increasing student achievement, vast academic and extracurricular opportunities, communication and outreach efforts, military-connected student resources and services, facilities and infrastructure and more.

"We also sought to bring something that we updated on an annual basis because many times when you create a report like this, you put it on the shelf or post it online and that information gets pretty stale," Reese said. "But what you're doing here in Vernon Parish is truly exceptional. It's better every year, and it's something we ought to brag about."

"This is our opportunity to make sure we are putting this in the hands of soldiers that are coming to Fort Polk, so they can make informed decisions based on the truth of what is actually happening here; as well as the senior Army commanders that are making decisions about placing units here for future mission expansion, so they do so armed with the best possible information about how truly exceptional this school district is," Reese added.

Reese expressed his appreciation to VPSB officials and staff for their collaborative efforts to make the annual report possible.

"I just want to thank you for the great job you do," he said. "Thank you for the opportunity to collect this kind of information. Thank you for the opportunity to brag about our school system to people in the Army destined for Fort Polk and people making decisions about Fort Polk."

VPSB officials also expressed their gratitude to Reese for the efforts of Fort Polk Progress on the Education Initiative.

"We would like to thank Mr. Reese for all of his support in the Vernon Parish School Board and our endeavors for academic excellence in our parish," said Renita Page, a VPSB curriculum director.

"We appreciate all that you do to build a bridge between Fort Polk and our school system," added Angie Davis, VPSB president.

James Williams, VPSB superintendent, also thanked Reese for bringing VPSB and Fort Polk together for the good of the students.

"We appreciate your hard work and cooperation with our schools and coordination with our military," Williams said. "Everything you all do really matters."

To view the full Education Initiative Annual Report, please visit www.fortpolkprogress.com/vernon-parish-school-district.