TWINSBURG— While the mothers and fathers of fallen sons and daughters are given a Gold Star, four of the school district's five schools were recently honored with a Purple Star — a distinction that is no doubt also appreciated by military families, as it recognizes a strong commitment to military-connected students and their families.

Wilcox Primary, Bissell Elementary, R.B. Chamberlin Middle and Twinsburg High schools were recognized last month by the Ohio Department of Education for the award. 

"In the Twinsburg City School District, we make every effort to 'know every child's story,'" said Superintendent Kathryn Powers. "Students who come from military families may have needs and challenges which are different from other students and it is important that our school district provides supports which assist these children in meeting success.

"I am very proud of the Purple Star Award designations for Twinsburg High School, R.B. Chamberlin Middle School, Bissell Elementary School and Wilcox Primary School as they show a major commitment to students and their families who are connected to our nation's military."

R.B. Chamberlin Principal James Ries said his school was "thrilled to have received this award."

"As a staff, we have provided information for military families on our website," Ries said. "The staff also had professional development on the challenges for military students, and we identify our military families for our teachers. The students from military families were introduced at an ice cream social and were featured at our Veterans Day assembly."

Wilcox Principal Lynn Villa said the school's annual "Bring a Veteran to Lunch" program honors more than 150 veterans and active duty military personnel every November, near Veterans Day.

"Our commitment to military-connected students and families goes beyond that event," Villa said. "Wilcox staff have participated in professional development about the unique challenges our military students face. These include things like moving frequently, not feeling included when they go to another school, gaps in academics, and worry about a family member who is deployed."

Villa said the school district's website, http://www.twinsburg.k12.oh.us online, has links to resources for military families that can be found if they click the Purple Star.

Misty Johnson, principal at Bissell Elementary School, said the school invited veterans to two performances in November, which includes patriotic songs and a presentation honoring the veterans in attendance.

Each veteran’s family submits a picture to music teachers Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Petitte prior to the performances, Johnson said. The musical program incorporates hand movements, dance and the use of American Flags, which highlight the gratitude our second- and third-grade students have for the sacrifices veterans have made to fight and preserve our freedoms.

As the veterans exit the gymnasium, students give each veteran a handmade card thanking them for their service.

Johnson added that the school’s guidance counselor "checks in with our students of military families, once a quarter, to make sure they are adjusting to and feeling comfortable in a new environment."

High School Principal Louise Teringo said several staff members reach out to students who are from military families, to encourage those students to talk to them.

Assistant Principal Timothy Sullen said the high school and district "has been military friendly over the past several years."

"Our local partnership with the VFW will continue as they will continue to provide the Color Guard for all home football games," Sullen said.

In December, THS supported the "Wreaths across America" campaign. Flyers were hung throughout to school to help raise funds for wreaths to place on the headstones of veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. In 2015, The Cost of Freedom Tribute and Traveling Vietnam Wall was presented at Twinsburg High School.

The Purple Star Award

According to the ODE, the Purple Star designation for military-friendly schools recognizes schools that show a major commitment to serving students and families connected to our nation’s armed forces. Purple Star awardees receive a special Purple Star recognition to display in their buildings. The Purple Star Advisory Board, formed by the Ohio departments of Education, Higher Education, Veterans Services and Adjutant General, helps decide eligibility.

The Twinsburg schools were among 44 in Ohio that received the award in February.

A Purple Star school will hold the designation for two years, then the school must reapply. The Purple Star emblem was selected because purple symbolizes support for military families.

There are 34,000 children in Ohio with one or more parents serving in the military, according to the ODE. This includes the children of active duty, reserve and Ohio National Guard members. Some of these children will attend six to nine different schools throughout their K-12 educational experiences.

In addition to changing schools often, a student can be affected by a parent’s deployment. Schools can help students and families face these issues by connecting them with the resources they need.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??