Military academy could be coming to Flatbush


A group of current and retired army and maritime officers want to open a military charter school for at-risk students in East Flatbush.

Dr. Lloyd Burkett, the Commanding Officer in the US Naval Sea Cadets, would chair the Joint Military and Maritime Charter High School, which would be located at inside the shuttered St. Vincent Ferrer school on Brooklyn Avenue at Glenwood Road.

The proposed high school is in the second-to-last stage of the state Department of Education’s approval process, which will give its final decision by December, according to spokeswoman Jane Briggs. If approved, the charter school will seek funding from the Department of Defense, according to its application. It plans to open in time for the 2011-12 school year.

All 400 students at the high school would be enrolled in the US Army and Coast Guard Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, a required one-period-per-day program of physical education, military history, maritime science and leadership skills. But the proposed school board maintains that their JROTC will be more like West Point than Parris Island.

“It won’t be like a boot camp with drill officers yelling at students,” Burkett said.

The rest of the curriculum will follow the state standard, complete with English, math, science, social studies and health, with special classes for English as a second language students. The course work will be arranged by Odysseyware, an online service for automated lesson plans and grading. The software isn’t used in New York City schools — and a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers said that officials in his organization hadn’t even heard of it — but Burkett says that the online program will improve students’ technology skills and allow teachers to better track their students’ performances.

Burkett and his troops hosted a question and answer session at the Oct. 20 meeting for the Community Education Council of District 22, where their school would be located. Burkett’s presentation went well, according to Christopher Spinelli, president of the school board.

“I’m not a huge supporter of charter schools, but this one seems to be different in that instead of taking the top students, it is targeting kids who are not doing well academically,” Spinelli said. “District 22 is a pretty high-performing district, but sometimes the needs of at-risk students can go ignored.”

District 22 public high schools include Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Leon Goldstein, James Madison and Bay Academy. For the 2009-10 school year, Sheepshead Bay High School ranked the lowest, with fewer than half of the students performing at grade level on state tests.

Burkett was quick to point out that even though the U.S. military suffers from the stigma that it recruits low-income and minority youth, his students will simply be getting a better chance to further their education — or get a good job.

“There is absolutely no obligation for our students to go into the military after they graduate,” he said. “Our students may decide to either attend college or to use their maritime training to get jobs in the shipping industry.