Wed, Nov 16, 2022 11:51 AM
By Bethany Blankley, The Center Square
Florida continues to honor military families through a range of state and local resources, in addition to schools that are providing extra support for the children of those serving.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced that 114 schools in 10 counties across Florida are being designated as Purple Star campuses, the first of their class in Florida as part of a new recognition. He made the announcement while visiting Fort Walton Beach High School in Okaloosa County in a school district that has the highest percentage of military children enrolled in the state.
Additionally, the Department of Education is going to be working with Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, and Walton counties to create a first of its kind teacher leadership program at Purple Star schools to help veterans earn their teaching certification and help other teachers learn how to best serve military families. The new program will allow Purple Star schools to fill teaching positions and help qualified teachers receive their certification more quickly.
“Purple Star schools have the tools and knowledgeable faculty needed to help children of military families succeed regardless of the obstacles they face,” the governor said. “We also recognize that no one can better relate to these children than those who have served, which is why we are encouraging our veterans to teach at these schools and across the state.”
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., said Florida “was raising the bar for military-friendly education initiatives. The Purple Star program is another leap forward in ensuring that military families and students receive the support they need to be successful and the schools that serve them are recognized.”
Purple Star campuses must meet certain requirements, including designating a faculty member as the military liaison to directly support families, updating their school websites with resources for military students and families, and offering a student-led transition program to assist military students with acclimating. They must also expand staff professional development training opportunities on issues relating to military students and reserve controlled, open enrollment seats for military-connected students to ensure school choice opportunities are available to them, regardless of the time of year their military transfer takes place.
The Purple Star teacher leadership program builds on legislation the governor signed into law earlier this year enabling qualified veterans to obtain a temporary teaching certificate while they earn a bachelor’s degree. It also connects veterans with opportunities to finish their schooling at nearby colleges while also gaining classroom experience and learning from mentor-teachers.
Schools in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, and Walton counties will be among the first to actively recruit veterans to become teachers through the program, the governor said. Veterans will also be able to earn their certification directly from the school.
Veterans can learn more about and apply to the program through a new website launched earlier this year.
DeSantis has also said the legislature would consider an expanded recruitment initiative next year to hire retired military veterans and first responders as teachers.