Dekalb will be Georgia’s first public military high school and the only U.S. Marine Corps public school in the nation founded on educational theory and the discipline of long-standing JROTC programs.
The DeKalb Marine Corps Institute will focus its academics on math and science, coupled with a military-style regimen. It will have a principal and a commandant. The school, scheduled to open in August, will eventually include 650 students from throughout DeKalb County.
The school has drawn opposition, both from neighbors who say the proposed site is too small and from people who object to the Marines’ involvement. But the Marines say all they want to do is help.
William McHenry, national director for the Marine Corps’ Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, talked to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the school.
Q: Where did the idea originate?
We received an exploratory phone call from the state department of education. Georgia has had a long and continuing relationship with all services, as far as JROTCs are concerned, and so, building on that relationship, some forward-thinking folks at the state gave us a call and said, “What would the best look like?”
Q: But there are other schools like this, including in Chicago?
There are, but they’re basically [military] academies. The idea [in DeKalb] was to do really data-driven decision-making. Let’s look at the empirical data … and build a model. So the idea was, if we’re going to do something, let’s base it on the science of education.
Q: But what do the Marines get out of it?
We accomplish our mission. Our mission given to us by Congress is to build leadership and character in the kids of America. And it provides a niche for kids. All kids need a niche. It might be on the football field, it might be on the stage as a member of the drama club. Or it might be in ROTC.
Q: We’ve had some folks protest the school will be used to recruit more Marines.
An inherent part of this program is kids will be taking 15 college [credit] hours in their senior year. To me, that creates an amazing amount of opportunity for well-deserving kids who might not have otherwise had the chance to go on to college. I’m glad there is public dialogue, because it’s important in a republic that we voice our concerns. But giving a kid a good education and getting them started with their first year of college, I think, opens up more doors than closes them.
Q: There’s no military commitment for these kids?
Absolutely none. And it costs them nothing to go there.
Q: But there is a financial commitment by the Corps to the school?
Our start-up to outfit the school with uniforms and equipment will be between $1.3 million and $1.4 million.
Q: So it has the potential to be the first in the nation, in terms of its focus.
We hope and intend that it reaches a demographic that, you know, the smart kid that wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity because of either economics or socio-cultural limitations, that kid now has equality of opportunity to go on and succeed in life. To me, that’s what this is all about.
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