Academy will be the first charter school in the nation to offer
a curriculum centered around a full-time Navy Junior Reserve
Officer Training Corps program. Only two other public schools --
one in St. Louis and the other in Detroit -- have full-time Navy
The academy is the
culmination of an effort by Charles Baldwin, a retired Navy
master chief petty officer turned educator, and John
Wintermantel, a soon-to-retire lieutenant colonel employed
full-time by the Delaware Army National Guard.
"We know that Junior
R.O.T.C. [offered] a couple hours a week works. Why wouldn't it
work that much better if offered all day five days a week?"
"It's all about
leadership," adds Baldwin, who will be commandant, the
equivalent of principal.
Students will take
standard high school academic courses and meet state graduation
requirements. Naval science and related courses, such as
oceanography and naval history, will take the place of
electives. There will be a sports program, but with a twist --
including such non-conventional activities as rowing and land
difference, however, will be found in the matter of discipline.
Students will wear regulation Navy khaki and dress blue uniforms
and fill a variety of positions as cadet officers and petty
While Baldwin agrees
that Junior R.O.T.C. is recognized as a vehicle for motivating,
to the point of 'turning around' in some cases, recalcitrant
youngsters, he said that is not a primary objective of the new
academy. "We can help that kind of student, but we're open to
everyone. We expect to get many of the same kids who would do
well in any high school," he said.
As with any charter
school, Delaware Military Academy will be a public school. It
will not require an entrance examination nor will there be any
tuition. It will accept both male and female students on an
equal basis. If oversubscribed, there will be a random lottery
among those applying before the Jan. 8 state-established charter
There will be a
briefing session for interested or potentially interested
parents and students on Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in Conrad Middle
School in Woodcrest.
will be director of operations, said the academy is looking to
draw students completing both public and non-public eighth
grades and living mostly within about a five-mile radius from
its campus on Middleboro Road near Banning Park in Christiana
Hundred. It will be a day school, but he said the only
comparable institution in the region is Valley Forge (Pa.)
Military Academy, which is a resident institution with a $20,000
fell into general disfavor during the Vietnam War era and many
venerable ones either folded or adopted new guises. Widener
University, which sprang from Pennsylvania Military College, is
a pointed example. Even though the pendulum of public sentiment
vis-à-vis the military has swung back to a favorable position,
there has not been any rush to re-establish former ones or
create new ones.
Delaware Military Academy entails no military obligation upon
graduation, but Baldwin said four years of preparation at the
secondary school level is excellent preparation for a military
career. "We provide schools for youngsters that age who are
considering vocational careers, or arts or science careers. Why
not have the same thing for someone thinking about making the
military their life's work?" he said.
With more than 10%
of high school graduates in that category and as many as 20%
becomng involved to some extent with the military, it makes
sense for them to at least have a taste of what that is about in
advance, he adds.
In the more
immediate future, he adds, it gives students a leg-up in
competing for Navy R.O.T.C. college scholarships at some 100
colleges and universities, including Villanova, Penn and Penn
State, or appointment to one of the service academies. Having
Junior R.O.T.C. credits on a transcript also is a plus for
general college admission.
The charter school model was chosen because it provides both
flexibility and a revenue stream, he said. "It allows us to be
The academy will have a slightly longer than average school day
and some voluntary activities on Saturdays.. It will not be a
year-around operation, but will offer an optional summer-camp
program. Academic financing will come from the equivalent of
per-student tuition that the state and public school districts
are required to furnish. The Navy supplies uniforms and other
support elements for the Junior R.O.T.C. portion of the program.
It expects to recruit at least part of its faculty from among
teachers who use the one-year leave-of-absence provision of the
charter school law to come on a trial basis. In its first year,
the academy plans to employ 17 teachers and have a total staff
The academy is chartered by the Red Clay Consolidated School
District, which Wintermantel said has been highly supportive.
To some extent, Delaware is fortunate to be able to secure a
Navy Junior R.O.T.C. program. The state had been allotted two --
at Seaford and Christiana High Schools -- but when the program
was expanded two years ago, the program's Pensacola, Fla.,
headquarters "saw fit to give us one of the new slots," Baldwin
He acknowledges that he may have had a less-than-passive role in
swaying that decision. Before retiring in 1993, he was runner-up
for appointment as master chief of the Navy, the highest ranking
non-commissioned officer, who reports directly to the chief of
naval operations. "I do have a few [high ranking] Navy friends,"
he admits, adding that the Delaware congressional delegation,
and especially Senator Thomas Carper, a former naval aviator,
have backed the project.
After retirement, Baldwin signed on as associate naval science
instructor in the Seaford Junior R.O.T.C. program and then went
on to establish the unit at Christiana. The latter won
recognition three times as being in the top 20% of units
nationally. Three of his former Junior R.O.T.C. students were
appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, U.S. Military
Academy at West Point and the Coast Guard Academy at New London,
More recently, he was principal of Kirk Middle School in the
Christina School District for two years.
A native of Illinois, he came to Delaware 15 years ago when he
and his wife, Rica, decided to make their home here while he was
stationed at the Philadelphia Navy Base. The family decided to
remain while he served during the Persian Gulf War and aboard
the U.S.S. Eisenhower as command master chief. His children,
Antonella and William, are graduates of Thomas McKean High
Wintermantel is a native of New Castle and graduate of William
Penn High School and Wilmington College. He is completing 30
years of National Guard service.