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Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014
Commentary

Scott DeThomas: MacDill AFB charter school would greatly improve quality of life for members, families, city

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As I approach the end of my two-year tour, I want to thank Hillsborough County School Board members for the continued support of the 25,000 family members of veterans enrolled in Hillsborough County Public Schools. These children represent a unique group of young men and women whose parents chose military service in defense of our nation.

Although these children move two to three times more than their civilian counterparts, or to six to nine schools during the normal K-12 experience, these children benefit from a community that supports their needs and is willing to address the unique challenges faced by military families.

In the coming months, our local education advisory council, in conjunction with our privatized housing provider, will reapply for a charter school on MacDill Air Force Base. We have appreciated the dialogue over the past year and have made tremendous strides to clarify the relationship between the varying organizations.

I am thankful for the leadership displayed by HCPS in last year’s application. The requirement for additional capacity on base has not changed and stands to greatly improve quality of life for the 10,000 active-duty members and their families, as well as residents of Tampa.

Our data clearly show the additional on-base capacity in the form of 875 seats in the K-8 grades improves options for military families, single parents and families of deployed members. To reaffirm our position, a poll was conducted this past spring where almost 400 families provided feedback on a charter school option on base. The survey results showed 90 percent support the alternative, and over 50 percent provided some type of feedback.

Here is a small sample of the comments:

“An on-base charter school is desperately needed to meet the unique educational/social requirements of military children.”

“I believe that an on-base charter school will be a great asset to the military community and our children. If it was available today, this would be my first choice for school. Since there isn’t any, my children are attending a charter school off-base (even though I live on-base and it would be more convenient for me).”

“As a veteran and working mother of a three-year old … I would love to have a charter school on every military installation for a couple of reasons: 1. Security. 2. Better individualized attention to academic progress and achievement.”

“My wife and I would love to be able to have our children attend school on-base.”

“Currently, we live less than one mile from the base and were told we were not eligible to use Tinker. We put all three of our children in private school, as a local elementary school was not what we were looking for. Allowing our children to attend an on-base charter school would be wonderful!”

“I see the benefit of a charter school but we picked our house based on the schools. However, we are lucky to have the money to move where we want, and this may not be the case for every military member.”

Again, thanks to Hillsborough County School Board members for all you do for Hillsborough County and for the families of our military community.

Col. Scott DeThomas is the commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base.

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