Waynesville R-VI School District became one of just two school districts in the nation to be selected to receive a prestigious award this week.

WASHINGTON D.C. – Waynesville R-VI School District became one of just two school districts in the nation to be selected to receive a prestigious award this week.

The Pete Taylor Exemplary Partnership Award was given to the Waynesville R-VI School District and Fort Leonard Wood in Washington, D.C., at a luncheon on Tuesday during the Military Child Education Coalition's 15th National Training Seminar. The recognition included a $3,000 award to enhance military student services.

"Fort Leonard Wood and the Waynesville R-VI School District experience an exceptionally strong and positive relationship," Dr. Judene Blackburn, district superintendent, said after receiving the award. "This award means so much to all of us in this district. It recognizes our commitment and dedication to meeting the needs of our military children and assuring educational success for all."

The district educates approximately 6,000 students, 76 percent of which are connected to the military.

"Our school district is a valued member of our military community and has consistently demonstrated unprecedented support of our soldiers, families and retirees," said Col. William Pfeffer, Garrison commander in his letter of support for this award.

Transparency, accountability and community engagement are at the heart of the partnership between the district and post.

"All major decisions made within the school district include input from Fort Leonard Wood on how proposed changes could impact the military children and families we serve," Blackburn says.

To strengthen the relationship, the district meets monthly with the Garrison Command and School Liaison Officer, broadcasts school board meetings, connects military units with schools, hosts parent workshops and new family welcomes, offers extensive after-school programs, holds Summer School, hosts an Adventure Leadership Camp and welcomes new students through the Student to Student and Junior Student to Student programs. FLW strengthens the partnership further through programs, such as the Robotics Club, raising funds and food for Snack in a Pack and inviting non-military children to join their friends at Child, Youth and Social Services on FLW.

Student surveys and input from military leaders help determine programming.

"By listening to our military leaders and our students, we are only continuing to offer the most effective programs," says Dr. LeRoy Fulmer, president of the Waynesville R-VI Board of Education. "No one has a greater impact on our students than our classroom teachers, but these programs are an excellent extension of classroom learning."

Not only are the students forming bonds and connecting with their peers, they are also improving their scores on statewide tests. Due to the strong support systems that have been implemented between the district and FLW, MAP scores of military transfer students who have been with the district less than one year have risen significantly.

"Ultimately, these programs show that success outside of the classroom correlates with success in the classroom," says Dr. Kim Hawk, the district's community resources coordinator.

Receiving the award during the training seminar on behalf of the district were Blackburn, Fulmer, Hawk, Dr. Brian Henry, assistant superintendent of instructional services; Kim Amodio, assistant principal at Waynesville Middle School; and Marianne Ward, director of communications and marketing.

AmeriCorps VISTA members David Bennett and Maleah Hendricks, now a community resource employee, authored the district's application. The West Point Community Schools received the other 2013 Exemplary Partnership Award.

In 2004, in recognition of General Taylor's work and dedication to helping America's military children, the Military Child Education Coalition Board of Directors established the Pete Taylor award. This annual award encourages and applauds the outstanding and exemplary partnerships that exist between military installations and school districts and brings special recognition to those partnerships that demonstrate the MCEC core value that "real goodness happens at the local level."

"Many of our teachers, staff and administrators were among the more than 1,200 civilians who poured into Nutter Field House to show their support for Fort Leonard Wood on April 30," Blackburn says. "They volunteered to show that they are part of that real goodness that happens on the local level."