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MIB program aids with Wayne County education upgrades

Dr. Michael Dunsmore (left), Wayne County Public Schools superintendent, speaks with Col. Mark Slocum, 4th Fighter Wing commander, during a Wayne County School tour, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Dunsmore and Slocum participated in the Wayne County Education Public Schools tour to show community leaders the condition of the public schools and the impact they’re having on the community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Dr. Michael Dunsmore (left), Wayne County Public Schools superintendent, speaks with Col. Mark Slocum, 4th Fighter Wing commander, during a Wayne County School tour, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Dunsmore and Slocum participated in the Wayne County Education Public Schools tour to show community leaders the condition of the public schools and the impact they’re having on the community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Several 4th Fighter Wing and civic leaders tour a classroom at Meadow Lane Elementary, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. More than 20 leaders toured the elementary school along with Spring Creek Middle School and Eastern Wayne High School as part of the Make It Better Children’s Education initiative. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Several 4th Fighter Wing and civic leaders tour a classroom at Meadow Lane Elementary, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. More than 20 leaders toured the elementary school along with Spring Creek Middle School and Eastern Wayne High School as part of the Make It Better Children’s Education initiative. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

A number of 4th Fighter Wing and community leaders ride in a Wayne County School bus during their tour of three different county schools, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Members received transportation in both an old and newer model school bus to experience the ride Wayne County School children take to and from school every day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

A number of 4th Fighter Wing and community leaders ride in a Wayne County School bus during their tour of three different county schools, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Members received transportation in both an old and newer model school bus to experience the ride Wayne County School children take to and from school every day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Karen Wellington Whichard, Meadow Lane Elementary School principal, speaks with leadership from both the 4th Fighter Wing and Wayne County during a tour, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Whichard brought members into her school to show the conditions her teachers and students are teaching and learning in and what they’ve done to try to maintain the 1958 facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Karen Wellington Whichard, Meadow Lane Elementary School principal, speaks with leadership from both the 4th Fighter Wing and Wayne County during a tour, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Whichard brought members into her school to show the conditions her teachers and students are teaching and learning in and what they’ve done to try to maintain the 1958 facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Col. Mark Slocum (left), 4th Fighter Wing commander, walks with Karen Wellington Whichard, Meadow Lane Elementary School principal, around the facility, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Leadership from the 4th FW and Wayne County toured the facility, built in 1958, to take note of the conditions of the current buildings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Col. Mark Slocum (left), 4th Fighter Wing commander, walks with Karen Wellington Whichard, Meadow Lane Elementary School principal, around the facility, May 11, 2016, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Leadership from the 4th FW and Wayne County toured the facility, built in 1958, to take note of the conditions of the current buildings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE --

Wayne County commissioners voted unanimously to approve a $28.2 million plan to build a new Meadow Lane Elementary School and upgrade several local schools across Wayne County June 8, 2016.

For months, Wayne County Public Schools in collaboration with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Wayne County and the City of Goldsboro, North Carolina, have been working together to assess current issues with schools in the local area and identify and fund possible improvements.

“These bold leadership decisions of our Goldsboro, Wayne County, and Wayne County Public School leaders show their commitment to the future of our children and this base,” said Col. Mark Slocum, 4th Fighter Wing commander. “The quality of local education directly impacts our ability to recruit and retain quality Airmen at Seymour Johnson AFB, and those manning impacts directly relate to our combat capability. These decisions can be the first steps towards building an era of world class education for all Wayne County and Seymour Johnson AFB children.”

In late October 2015, Slocum started a new line of effort for the ‘Make it Better’ campaign aimed at improving overall education opportunities and effectiveness for all Team Seymour children. He first initiated a survey for all parents across the installation to provide their feedback and opinions on the conditions and education quality their children were receiving in the local area.

After receiving an overwhelming survey response from 472 parents of Seymour Johnson AFB, Slocum presented the compiled results to the leaders from Wayne County Public Schools, the City of Goldsboro, and Wayne County. In response to the survey, the installation, county and city leaders decided to aggressively seek solutions to address the concerns of the military families in the area and accelerate potential enhancements to schools in the area.

Over the following months, Dr. Michael Dunsmore, WCPS superintendent, held several town hall meetings with the parents of WCPS students and local school leaders, providing a forum for information and planned improvements to the local school system. In addition, Dr. Dunsmore shared his education vision and fielded specific questions parents may have concerning an array of topics including special needs education, homeschooling services and funding.

Finally, installation senior leaders alongside community and school leaders, visited several schools of varying education levels to personally see the issues identified by the parents.

Among the schools visited was Meadow Lane Elementary School, which is connected geographically to the base. The majority of the new funding for WCPS improvements [$21.8 million] is allocated toward replacing the more than 50-year-old school with a completely new campus adjacent to the current location.

Robert Freeman, 4th Force Support Squadron school liaison for the base, said most of the elementary school children living on base attend Meadow Lane, so Seymour Johnson AFB has a vested interest in the success of this school.

“Seymour Johnson AFB is a ‘partner in education’ with Meadow Lane Elementary School,” Freeman said. "’Partners In Education’ is a Wayne County Public Schools program in which businesses in the community partner with schools to provide mutual support and strengthen the relationships between the community and schools. Our Seymour Johnson AFB families support Meadow Lane through volunteering in the classrooms, serving on the Parent Teacher Association and as proctors for end of grade tests each year. Some of our spouses are employed as teachers in the school.”

Freeman has seen this process play out since its inception, and recalls concerns from Team Seymour members for several years.

“Our base leadership, in meetings with the Wayne County Public Schools Superintendent over the recent years, made a point of mentioning the need for a new facility for Meadow Lane,” he said. “It is exciting to know that we are not far from seeing that need fulfilled with the construction of a new school building.” 

In addition to Meadow Lane Elementary School, the newly approved plan also allocates $4.6 million for 22 additional classrooms at Fremont STARS Elementary School, $3.2 million for a new gym and six classrooms at Southern Wayne High School, and $400,000 to add air conditioning at the Rosewood Middle School gym.

“These improvements will benefit not only the military children, but all the children in Wayne County,” Slocum said. “Thank you to our community leaders for their commitment to improving public education in Wayne County.”