Eyes right children, here comes Colonel Baker

16th December 2005 at 00:00
United States

Philadelphia's education chiefs are recruiting senior military officers to maintain discipline in inner-city secondary schools.

Paul Vallas, the state's schools' chief executive officer, said: "We're looking to bring in military personnel with command experience - sergeant majors and colonels - to manage school campuses."

The officers will manage "discipline, safety and security and buildings" at up to 50 schools by next September, he said. They will not teach.

Mr Vallas said: "These schools need someone who can manage them.

Conventional principals don't have that experience. They may be strong academically, but training to be a great educator doesn't necessarily equip you to be a great manager.

"The military is about command and control, organisation and training.

Officers have commanded large organisations and know how to follow standard operating procedures to keep order and discipline."

Officials launched a recruitment drive last month, with advertisements in military publications. Earlier this month, they announced the first appointment, former US Marines colonel, Christopher Baker, to one of the city's most troubled schools.

Olney high school has expelled nearly 30 students since September amid brawls, truancy and vandalism, Philadelphia schools spokesman Fernando Gallard said. Colonel Baker will "assist teachers with discipline and supervise school police officers", he said.

The White House has championed retired soldiers as a recruitment pool for short-staffed US schools. Since 1994, the US defence department's Troops to Teachers programme has helped 8,570 ex-servicemen and women retrain as teachers, according to director John Gantz.

The scheme has drafted under-represented groups into teaching. Four out of five participants are men and 40 per cent are minorities, Mr Gantz said.

Just under a quarter of US teachers are male, a 40-year low, the country's largest teachers union, the National Education Association, says.

Nevertheless, some worry that their military background makes ex-soldiers unsuited to teaching.

Mr Gantz said: "They're not going to go in and bring a drill sergeant attitude. What they have is a sense of structure."

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