Principal Lawrance Mayes wants to dispel a few myths about the Marie G. Davis Military & Global Leadership Academy.
No, it's not a boot camp. There are no drill sergeants ready to scream in the faces of students. And it's definitely not a place to send a student solely to correct behavioral problems.
“It's not recruiting for a branch of the military,” said Mayes, the former Smithfield Elementary principal. “It's not a hard-nose, drop-and-give- me-20 kind of thinking. Students who finish 12th grade here should be in a position to go to any college anywhere.”
When Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools starts its 2008 school year Aug. 25, its only new magnet school will open with a different approach to learning and instruction than anything currently offered in the district. At Marie G. Davis, which will start with grades six through 10 and add 11th in 2009 and 12th in 2010, students will likely find a greater sense of accountability than the typical public school.
Students must wear uniforms with the school's emblem. Foreign language classes will start in sixth grade with fluency expected by graduation. Lineups and uniform inspections start at exactly 7:15 a.m. Upperclassmen are required to participate in JROTC. The school will offer only intramural sports.
Even faculty and staff have uniform requirements.
“If we're expecting so much from our children,” Mayes said, “then we should model the behavior that we want.”
With a price tag of $21 million for construction, the school faces some pressure by some who felt the school wasn't needed. It also has historical implications, as the former Marie G. Davis Middle School still sits on the campus south of central Charlotte. The school once had a population of diverse, high-performing international baccalaureate students, but the overturning of court-ordered desegregation filled the school with mostly low-income students who struggled until CMS closed the school in 2006.
Mayes, though, feels the school is primed for success, and many parents feel the same way. Around 500 students won a spot through the CMS lottery system. Some grades have waiting lists.
With a focus on fully preparing students for post-high school success, Mayes wants to foster an environment where learning and leadership are encouraged without distractions. He worries that in the first couple of years, because of the lottery system, the school could find students only put there by their parents as a way to fix problematic behavior.
All faculty, staff and students will have to sign a behavior handbook so that they know what could constitute write-ups or expulsions.
“There are kids who are excited about it, and there's some who only are coming because their parents signed them up,” Mayes said. “We're not going to water down the curriculum, and I will not deal with subordination or disrespect.”
Teachers – some of whom also conjured images of boot camps – are ready for an influx of students willing to learn.
“There's lots of energy and excitement, and it starts with the principal,” said 10th-grade teacher Annette Mason. “I'm going to let my students know that it's up to them to make or break this school.”