School District Partners With Community to Support Guard, Reserve

By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2008 - A small school district in South Dakota is being honored for its partnership with its military employees and the local community.

Winner School District, in Winner, S.D., is one of 15 companies chosen to receive the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which recognizes employers who provide exceptional support to employees serving in the National Guard or Reserve.

Winner School District always has been family-oriented, so supporting its employees who serve in the military is like second nature, said Mike Hanson, school district superintendent. "We feel it's our responsibility to offer that support, to let them know we care," he said.

To support its military employees, Winner School District provides a pay supplement for the entire length of a Guard or reserve employee's deployment. Deployed employees also receive care packages from the staff and students and daily e-mails updating them on the latest district news. The district uses the middle school library as a video tele-conference location, where families can talk to deployed relatives.

The school district also focuses on the servicemembers' families while they're deployed. School board members have helped out by mowing lawns, taking children to school athletic events, and even tending to an expectant mother. When deployed employees return from their overseas service, they are placed in the same classroom, teaching the same grade, which aids in their transition to civilian life, Hanson said.

The school district partners with the community as well, hosting a Veterans Day community program that recognizes local veterans and servicemembers in the faculty and student body, Hanson said. The district also works with the local National Guard unit, he said.

Having employees who also serve in the military benefits the school district because they bring strong organizational skills and initiative to the workplace, said Hanson, who grew up in a military family. "We can get things done with people who have a strong background in the military," he said.

Hanson said he is excited about receiving the Freedom Award, and looks forward to continuing the school district's support of military employees.

"We want to keep the services we have and improve on them," he said. "We're very proud to be part of this partnership with the military and the community."

Winner School District will receive the Freedom Award along with 14 other companies in a ceremony Sept. 18 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center here. The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to recognize exceptional support from the employer community.

*Related Sites:*
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve  [ ]
Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award  [ ]
School District Partners With Community to Support Guard, Reserve [ ]