Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

MacDill commander backs planned charter school

Air Force Col. Scott V. DeThomas endorses the school plan.

Air Force Col. Scott V. DeThomas endorses the school plan.

TAMPA — In an unusual move, a group that wants to open a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base pitched its proposal Tuesday to the Tampa Bay Times' editorial board.

"What we're trying to do is change the way we support our families," said Air Force Col. Scott V. DeThomas, the base commander and a father of two who endorses the idea.

"This is one of the methods that we think we can improve on and ensure that we maintain the highest level of retention and recruiting and make sure that our families get the absolute best care when they're in Tampa."

The planned school, called MacDill Charter Academy, would serve 875 children in grades K-8. Its application is among more than a dozen up for review in the Hillsborough County School District's increasingly busy charter office. A staff recommendation is expected in early December, in advance of a Dec. 10 School Board vote.

Advocates say the school will improve the quality of life for hundreds of families who live off-base and send their children to neighborhood schools in Brandon and beyond.

Those parents can enjoy time with their children while they commute to the base, DeThomas said. If a child needs to go to a medical appointment on the base, the parent won't have to sign the child out of a school 10 or 20 miles away.

Unlike prior generations, DeThomas said, today's military families are under enormous stress from frequent deployment. "Ninety percent of our servicemen and women know nothing other than being at war," he said.

Hillsborough has 43 charter schools, which receive state funding but operate independently of the school district. Enrollment is growing by about 20 percent a year compared with the statewide growth rate of 15 percent.

MacDill Charter would enter a community now served by Tinker Elementary School, a K-5 school that has earned an A grade nearly every year since 2000, and test scores well above the district and state average.

The group said they have no complaints about Tinker — but it does not have the room to accommodate the thousands of military children who live off-base.

Students in the middle school grades, which also would be served by the charter, are zoned for Monroe Middle, a C-rated school with test scores below the district average. Fewer than 20 percent of middle school-age children from the base attend Monroe, DeThomas said.

In its 475-page application to the district, school leaders say they can offer an extra measure of sensitivity to military families who typically move every two to three years.

"My son? Six schools in eight years," DeThomas said. "My second-grader? This is the first time she has gone to the same school for two years in a row."

Welcome programs and buddy programs would help new students feel at home. A student services coordinator on staff would address issues involving family stress and deployment. The school would have a student military club, and information related to the military on its website.

Although DeThomas cannot submit an application for a charter school, he said the law does allow him to assist with the request as part of his role of helping meet the needs of base families. The high-profile support is also atypical for most charter schools, which usually work behind the scenes with district staff.

The school would be run by Charter Schools USA, a for-profit, Fort Lauderdale company that operates three other schools in Hillsborough. Attorney Stephen J. Mitchell, who is working with the group, said he has met with superintendent MaryEllen Elia but she did not take a firm stand one way or another.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or

MacDill commander backs planned charter school 11/19/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 10:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter


    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle