In the video, Michelle Avery tells the story of how she gave birth to triplets during her husband Mark’s first deployment.
“We had figured one deployment was enough, but he had a job to do, so off he went again with five kids at home ...” she said. “When Mark left, their life kind of just went ‘kaboom.’”
Flewelling, who is now an elementary school principal in Brookline, said she and her staff began discussing ways to help military families when a Coast Guard family moved into the school district two years ago, followed quickly by the deployment of Avery and Parisella.
Lisa Parisella came up with the name Fort Beverly. The program included an in-school support group for students of military-connected families, as well as nights out at local restaurants for the adults in the families.
Speakers at yesterday’s event said the North Beverly School program is an example of how schools can reach out and help military families, who must deal with the long absence of a military parent, concerns about his or her safety, and the adjustment when the parent returns home.
Many school districts have yet to take the step of even identifying which students have parents in the military, speakers said. An estimated 13,000 children in Massachusetts have military connections.
Beverly High School took a survey last spring that identified nearly 100 families who are connected to the military in some way, said Principal Sean Gallagher, who attended the ceremony.
“It’s an under-identified population of students,” Gallagher said.
Jerry Parisella said he was comforted by the fact that his daughter’s school provided assistance while he was serving in Iraq for 11 months.
“I was concerned, especially with Sophia being 6 years old,” he said. “The Beverly schools really stepped up. We want to be focused on the mission and not be worried about the homefront.”
As part of yesterday’s event, Massachusetts Veterans Services Secretary Coleman Nee moderated a panel that included Flewelling and Lisa Parisella.
Representatives of North Beverly School included current Principal Erin Brown, school nurse June Kazes, former school adjustment counselor Jennifer Rogers-Burke, and teachers Donna Klimowicz and Patricia Drinkwater. Beverly Veterans Agent Jerry Guilebbe also attended.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.