A new report seems to make a strong case for opening a military-style academy in the Rochester City School District. The report, released this week, was put together by a special advisory committee of the Rochester school board.
The report recommends creating a standalone military school in the district, with the US Army's guidance. Instruction would be based on a Regents curriculum with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math.
The school would open in September 2017 with about 75 ninth-grade students. More than half would come from city schools, but the academy would also enroll students from the broader area. The school would, over four years, grow to serve no more than 450 students in grades 7 to 12.
Todd Baxter, executive director of Rochester's Veterans Outreach Center, and Lieutenant Colonel Ulises Miranda, senior instructor of the JROTC program at Rochester Early College High School, led the committee's effort.
Their research included interviews and focus group discussions with a wide range of organizations and individuals: city school district students, city parents, business and community leaders, college officials, members of the faith and organized labor communities, and law enforcement and military professionals.
The report found that support for a military-style school is strong in both the city and the suburbs.
Many educators and city and community leaders have long voiced interest in having a military-style school in the city school district. Some parents say that a military academy could provide students with structure, character development, and positive role models.
But history has shown opposition, too, to connections between the district and the armed forces.
Military recruitment on public high school campuses, for example, became a controversial issue during the Iraq war. Many people feared that it would create a pipeline to feed poor students to the military.
And many people have concerns about how students would be selected for the new academy and whether discipline might be too harsh.
"A proposal like this needs to go through a thorough vetting process," says Van White, president of the Rochester school board. "There are still questions about financing and resources that will need to be answered."
White says that past proposals for new schools typically came from the superintendent. The board is interested in seeing more proposals come from the community, he says, and is developing a process to review those proposals.
The military school proposal would need to go before the board's finance and student achievement committees before going to the full board for review. The community has to be involved, too, White says.
A detailed plan for the school would ultimately need the approval of the State Education Department moving forward.
"This is just the first step," White says.
The military academy would open in September 2017 with about 75 ninth-grade students. More than half would come from city schools. The school would, over four years, grow to serve no more than 450 students in grades 7 to 12.