In the mid-2000’s, many school districts across the country challenged military recruiters’ access to their high schools. Recruiters had high quotas to meet the demands of the Iraq war.
And even though the No Child Left Behind Act required high school administrators to give military recruiters similar access as college recruiters to students or risk losing federal education funding, many parents, teachers, and school officials strongly resisted.
Some of those parents, teachers, and school officials were at the city school district. They asked why students from poor backgrounds and with less opportunity to attend college should be served up for military recruiters.
But times have changed. The Iraq war is over and school officials are taking a different look at the military. Van White, president of the Rochester school board, has assembled a Military Academy Advisory Committee to explore the possibility of creating a military academy in city schools.
The committee, which is an impressive group led by Todd Baxter, a veteran with 22 years of military experience and the former Greece police chief, and Lieutenant Colonel Ulises Miranda III, the senior instructor of the JROTC, will have about two months to come up with recommendations.
It’s unclear whether the committee will recommend a standalone school or a program within city schools, where it would be located, or what kind of curriculum would be used. It’s not even clear where the money will come from, since White says that the school budget for 2016-2017 is almost all accounted for.
A military academy would not be for recruiting and training of service men and women; it would instead borrow from that style of training.
But a military academy, much like the military itself, appeals to many people who are often testimonials to the rigor, discipline, confidence, and character-building skills that can be gained. At a meeting yesterday, several men, including Baxter, talked about how the military gave them opportunities they would not have otherwise had and changed their lives for the better. The strict standards of dress, performance, and conformity, they say, were good things that transformed them from teens with no direction to young adults with a purpose.
And they believe strongly that some of Rochester's youth would benefit from the same calling.
White has another goal. He is aggressively trying to find alternatives to receivership — an intervention by the state —for some of the district’s most troubled schools. A military academy is just one of those alternatives, he says; the district can counter the attraction to charter schools with its own alternatives. Some on the committee even see the military academy as an option for suburban kids.
While a military academy might lead some students to enlist somewhere down the road, right now, it’s not Uncle Sam who wants them, it’s the RCSD.