A charter school can better and more quickly respond to the pressing needs of military families at MacDill Air Force Base than a district school. So says the base commander as a clash looms between the Tampa, Fla., institution and one of the nation’s biggest school districts.
Earlier this week, the Hillsborough County district told supporters of a proposed, on-base charter that its initial recommendation is to deny the school’s application.
Col. Scott DeThomas, the base commander, said afterward that he applauded the country’s eighth-biggest school district for its efforts to accommodate MacDill, which is home to U.S. Central Command. But he also said needs remain, including the desire of many families to bring their children to a school on base, and MacDill must move quickly to meet them.
That doesn’t appear feasible right now because a district-run elementary school on base is at capacity. The proposed MacDill Charter Academy would be a K-8 with 875 students, offering additional elementary seats and a middle school option that isn’t available at MacDill.
“I really respect the district’s position,’’ DeThomas said in an interview with redefinED. “But, unfortunately, at this time we need to do more for our military families.’’
Hillsborough officials said the recommended denial could be reversed, but they needed more information on the makeup of the charter school’s governing board. A meeting between the district and charter school backers is set for Monday morning.
Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, who has won a reputation as a progressive-minded leader, said she believes the district can better serve the needs of military families. Thomas politely disagreed.
It’s a different world for modern soldiers, most of whom have known only war during their enlistment, he said. For many, that has meant moving from base to base and routine deployments every few years – something extremely stressful for military families, especially children. “We want to get ahead of that,’’ DeThomas said. Continue Reading →