One week ago tonight I was at Thomas C. Marsh Middle School for my son's elementary-school talent show; those kids play the big room. We're in the Matadors' feeder pattern, and plenty of neighbors and friends send their kids to Marsh, which has made significant strides in recent years -- in large part due to former principal Kyle Richardson, who was among the first in the district to bring Teach for America into its classrooms and helped elevate the school from academically acceptable to recognized status by '09. Richardson was such a superior principal the Dallas Independent School District plucked him out of Marsh in August and made him Woodrow's principal; neighbors still speak of him wistfully.
But per the (entire) PBS-distributed episode of Ideas in Action With Jim Glassman you see below, which is scheduled to air on KERA-Channel 13 later this month, the school's recent rebound wasn't just because of Richardson. Significant credit should also go to much-liked Corporal David Bates and his Junior ROTC Program, which Bates was hired in '99 to establish "as part of an overall plan to boost student performance," as Glassman put it in this episode that examines ways to keep kids in school. Says Bates:
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In 1999, it wasn't the best of place to work. Lots of gang activity. Lots of bullying, fighting, you know. Our scores were low. We were, I guess, everything you would think of a big, large urban school district, public school kids. If you wanted to sum it up. ...
We started with nothing. And then we started fund-raisin'. We started getting uniforms. We started getting materials. I started writing my own curriculum. Four or five years later, we had all kinds of gear, and we started winning competitions. That's when we got a little bit of people [wondering], "What's going on over there?"
Watch the whole thing, or, if you're pressed for time, skim the transcript. So happens that yesterday the Dallas Police Department posted its own video about the Marsh Matadors' ROTC program -- specifically, its efforts to create a military museum on campus and its need for a few extra dollars. That, right there? That's good timing.