Col. Smith

Col. Anthony Smith, non-voting Vance Air Force Base representative on Enid Public Schools Board of Education, is shown in his office at Vance on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Alexander Ewald / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — Looking back over his 24-year career covering 12 assignments, Enid Public School’s departing representative from Vance Air Force Base said EPS is the only school district he knows of to invite military base members to participate in school board meetings.

Col. Anthony Smith, currently commander of Vance’s 71st Mission Support Group, of the 71st Flying Training Wing, said he’s never personally experienced the same level of patriotism or support for military members as much as here in Enid.

“I don’t feel like I’ve ever had that as strong as I’ve had it here,” he said last week at Vance, “and everyone that’s been here, whether it’s been a wing commander or any leadership level, they feel the exact same way.”

Having been EPS’ honorary, non-voting school board member for the last two school years, Smith will leave Enid at the end of June to take his new post at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

Starting July 1, Smith will begin his 13th assignment as comptroller for Air Mobility Command. He will be returning to Illinois for the first time since the start of his Air Force officer career 24 years ago when he was a second lieutenant, he said.

As Vance’s installation manager, Smith has been responsible for the $550 million flying operations and base operations contracts and all support for the Vance mission and community. He specializes in financial management; in civilian terms, he said he’d be considered a chief financial officer.

Smith said he’s moved four times in the last five years, most recently to Enid in July 2019 — moving every two to three years is more normal for commissioned officers, he said.

Because he’s in leadership, Smith will again live on base with his wife and two sons.

His eldest will be a high school senior, while his youngest will be a freshman, attending the same school near base. Both had attended Chisholm Public Schools.

“Just like every other family, (military families) have to do those personal decisions,” about which school districts to send their kids to, Smith said. “The problem is, they don’t get the flexibility or choice of where they want to live, necessarily.”

Oklahoma recently joined 42 other U.S. states offering open enrollment for public school students, who can request a transfer to any district of their choice regardless of where they live, throughout the school year, and as long as the school district has capacity.

Dependent military children, however, are exempt to districts’ quarterly transfer capacity limits allowed under Senate Bill 783, which Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law March 31. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the bill holds “real promise” for many families and students.

Prior to Oklahoma’s open enrollment, if living on base, an active-duty airman would have to petition a school district to allow their child to go to its school.

Illinois already offers open enrollment with military-family cap exemptions, Vance school liaison Timmy Higgins said. He and other bases’ school liaisons are in constant communication when families move to and from installations.

Higgins said Vance’s “footprint” of students is found in 12 different school districts.

In recent years, he said more states and base installations also have become more accommodating to military families on the move, like with spouses whose jobs require professional certifications and for children’s education levels or graduation requirements.

“There are a whole lot of laws that seem like little things, but they’re huge things if it’s your kid,” Higgins said.

If Smith’s eldest son intends to graduate high school next year, he will again need to have his credits from Chisholm transferred or waived.

Unlike his father, who also was a “military brat” himself, the younger Smith now will be able to, thanks to a relatively new nationwide compact that eases interstate transitions for students.

“Anytime that a community values and understands those challenges … is always better,” Col. Smith said.

Thirteen years ago, with aid from the Department of Defense, all 50 states’ Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commissions (MIC3s) enacted a national compact that’d remove transitional barriers to students’ educational success because of frequent moves and deployments of parents such as enrollment, eligibility, placement and graduation.

Oklahoma was one of the first 11 states to enact the compact on a state legislative level, doing so in 2015.

Since 2019, EPS Superintendent Darrell Floyd has been state commissioner of Oklahoma’s nine-member MIC3, which includes state legislators, superintendents, Department of Education representatives, and base and military liaisons.

Floyd last month led the district and state recognizing April as Military Child of the Month. He wished Smith well and thanked him for his service to both Vance and EPS at the colonel’s penultimate board meeting Monday, May 17.

“We know that it’s not always easy to give up your time to come and help us out with board meetings, but we want to say a great big thank you,” Floyd said.

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Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.

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