Parents find rigor of military academy appealing

CLEVELAND (AP) - The first charter school sponsored by the city school district will teach its students how to salute and keep a stick-straight posture in addition to reading and writing.
The General Johnnie E. Wilson Military Academy had 128 student recruits, but a few have already dropped out. Organizers planned it that way and expect to start classes Aug. 28 with about 100 students.
The school district will watch over the school without paying for it. Teachers are members of the district's teachers union. The school's board of directors will rent space at an existing school on the east side and receive state money for every child enrolled.
Two years of planning have gone into the academy, which will combine military-style training, tough academics, technical training and the chance to attend college classes while still in high school. Students and another grade will be added each year until school leaders reach their enrollment goal of 1,000.
Creating interest in the school has not been a problem. Charles Britton, who is the school's commandant, or principal, said 500 students are on a waiting list.
The promise of rigor appeals to parents, who are eager for their children to attend, Britton said.
Since the academy is a charter school and does not have to adhere to normal school boundaries, it also draws students from East Cleveland and Shaker Heights as well as local private schools.
While most other area ninth-graders savor the last days of summer vacation, the school's companies were in formation last week.
Gentry Gillespie, 14, attended Laurel School in Shaker Heights last year but now drills with Echo Company. She wanted to leave Laurel and heard about the school at a summer activities fair. So far, so good, she said during a recent lunch break.
A show of hands at Charlie Company showed that many students are becoming as interested in the school as their parents. A few confessed that they attend the academy because of their parents, but others said they had planned to enter the military after graduation anyway.
About 60 percent of the students are boys. Eventually, they will wear a type of dress uniform, plus Army-style fatigues.
Recruits will spend the next few weeks learning about flag ceremonies and other details. After two weeks of drills, students will be promoted from recruits to cadets.
The academy is named for a recently retired four-star Army general from Lorain who will serve as its chairman of the board.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)