For retired Air Force Sgt. Greg Parmer, having a K-8 charter school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., would give military families more and better options for middle school.
For Amanda Madden, who lives on the base with her husband, a technical sergeant, and two sons, such a school would also be an opportunity for something better at the elementary school level.
“I’m more trusting of a school on base as opposed to a public (district) school,” she said.
Quality, convenience, a better fit for military families – supporters of a proposed charter school at MacDill have raised those points repeatedly in recent months as one of the best-known military bases in the country squares off against one of the nation’s biggest school districts. But conspicuously absent from the debate has been the voices of military families themselves.
In interviews with redefinED, Parmer and Madden echoed many of the concerns that other supporters have already raised. At the same time, they offered more detail about frustrations they say led them – and perhaps other military families – to consider the possibility of a charter school.
“Most of our families live in Brandon and Riverview (on the other side of town),’’ said Parmer, a father of three who lives near the base. Having a K-8 on base would be a huge plus for them, he said.
The proposed MacDill Charter Academy would serve up to 875 students and is being considered as the base expands housing to accommodate 600 new families. The Hillsborough County School Board voted down the academy application in December, citing problems with the school’s governing structure and other issues. But the school’s backers have appealed, with the state Charter School AppealCommission set to consider the matter on Feb. 24.
Parmer’s concerns focus on middle school options.
MacDill families have few complaints about Tinker Elementary, the A-rated elementary school that’s run by the district on base. But there is some grumbling about Monroe Middle School, which is near the base and earned a C grade from the state this year.
Parmer said he and his wife, Kimberly, who works as a secretary on the base, weren’t necessarily expecting a private-school atmosphere when they learned their daughter and son, and a nephew who lives with the family, would attend Monroe in 2011. But the school turned out to be culture shock for the Parmer kids, who had gone to U.S. Department of Defense schools in Germany and Japan.