[R-G] Despite protests, DeKalb proceeds with Marines school
fentona at shaw.ca
Wed Mar 25 13:00:09 MDT 2009
Updated: 7:24 p.m. March 23, 2009
Despite protests, DeKalb proceeds with Marines school
County plans to open public high school in partnership with U.S.
By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, March 23, 2009
DeKalb County school officials are forging ahead with plans to open a
first-of-its-kind military-style public high school, despite a growing
campaign by activists upset at the involvement of the U.S. Marines.
“It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in Georgia education,” said
Michael Burke, a DeKalb resident and spokesman for the Georgia
Veterans Alliance, a group that aligns itself with the work of the
Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, among others.
“The whole thing is just a ploy” to help the Marines recruit, Burke
said. “We expect to fight it tooth and nail.”
That response irritated DeKalb school system officials. They said it
stereotypes the proposed Marine school and students who may be
interested in it. The protests — mounted largely through e-mails and
letters — have not deterred them, they said.
“This is not a training ground to send kids into the military,” said
DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis, whose system, with
99,700 students, is the state’s third-largest. “My job is not to look
after a portion of children but all the children. One size does not
fit all. For the mom who believes her child is capable of going to
college but lacks discipline, this is a choice.”
A DeKalb school spokesman said Monday the system has hired a
commandant for the school, which system officials hope to open in
August. The commandant was selected from a list of three candidates
from the Marines.
A memorandum of understanding with the Marines has not yet been
signed, although DeKalb school board members authorized the school’s
concept Sept. 9.
The DeKalb Marine Corps Institute will be the first of its kind in
Georgia, and joins an expanding network of such schools nationwide.
The first public military academy opened in Richmond, Va., in 1980,
and more than a dozen now exist in places from New York to Wisconsin.
One proponent has been Arne Duncan, recently nominated as the nation’s
education secretary after leading the Chicago public school system
since 2001. Chicago opened the nation’s first public high school run
by the Army’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and now features
six full-site military academies, among other military-style programs.
DeKalb officials say their school will combine academics with a
military-style regimen for as many as 650 ninth- through 12th-graders.
The school’s commandant will handle anything not related to academic
instruction. A principal will be hired to handle academics, which
includes a focus on math and science.
According to Lewis, the Marines would share costs of operating the
school, including paying for teacher salaries. DeKalb would pay for
High school students could apply from across the system to the
“choice” magnet school, although admission is dependent on their
mastery of algebra. Enrollment would not require a student to make any
post-graduation military service or commitment.
“I’ve gotten an awful lot of what you might say is irrational hate
mail” about the school, said DeKalb school board member Paul Womack,
who suggested the idea. “But this school is an outstanding school.
This is a chance to bring regimentation and discipline into the lives
of young people.”
Lewis on Monday declined to be more specific about how the school
would operate, including costs, who would supervise teachers and other
management issues, because the system has not reached a final
agreement with the Marines. Lewis said he hoped the agreement would be
completed in two weeks.
The school will have its own campus, using an existing building.
Officials are considering placing the school at its Heritage Center,
located off Briarcliff Road in north DeKalb. Some neighbors, however,
have suggested in e-mails and on local blogs that the former
elementary school is too small.rad
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