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Porterville Military Institute — a Measure J possibility
A possible 10th Pathway Charter High School Academy for Porterville Unified School District — the Porterville Military Institute — is one of the benefits that would result if the District’s bond measure passes, said district officials.
Measure J, a $90 million general obligation bond measure on the November ballot, is slated for PUSD to increase student and teacher access to computers and modern classroom technology, replace outdated portable classrooms, and improve academic, career and support facilities, including gyms, play fields, band, choir, academy and Pathway facilities, including the Porterville Military Institute.
The school can hold an approximate 700 seventh through 12th grade students, serve as home to Porterville’s 3rd Brigade, and be located in a 40,000 square foot empty building, alongside Porterville Adult School and Butterfield Charter High School, housed at what is also known as the Rockwell Building, at 900 W. Pioneer Ave.
The 3rd Brigade, run by Cadet instructor and adviser Lt. Col. Abel Huerta with help from retired 3rd Brigade adviser Col. Jesse Navarro, has an approximate 200 members from local elementary, middle and high schools, and has a reputation for outshining other cadet programs and placing high at competitions. In January 2011, 20 members were selected and participated as part of ‘The Governors’ Own Honor Guard’ during Jerry Brown’s inauguration ceremony in Sacramento.
“We envision a nice grand entrance facing the freeway so that people driving by can see it,” said John Snavely, PUSD superintendent.
A large lawn area will adorn the front as well, Snavely said, and will be perfect for the 3rd Brigade California Cadet Corps’ marching and other activities.
“It will have plenty of rooms. [The building] was originally designed for 10 classrooms but we have room for an additional 10 classrooms here and a gymnasium. We already have the District’s central kitchen next door,” Snavely said as he walked through the complex on Thursday. “We are saving significantly by having an existing site. We estimate because the structures, utilities and land, is saving the district upwards of $10 million as opposed to building from scratch.”
The site sits on 26 acres, with orange groves, owned by the District, on either side of the Rockwell Building and the District’s solar fields directly behind the school. The District backed off on moving forward with the project until financial means were available, Snavely said.
“It will take an approximate $10 million to set the school in place. There is lots of space to do what needs to be done,” Snavely said. “It would be modeled after the Oakland Military Institute. Establishing something like this in a community like ours that is very patriotic and supportive of our armed forces is [ideal] and would embrace this concept and be home to our 3rd Brigade.”
The Oakland Military Institute was founded in 2001 by then Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown who had a vision for a school with high expectations for student achievement, conduct, character, patriotism and leadership.
PUSD began exploring the idea of establishing a military institute almost a year ago when representatives with the city and Lt. Col. Denver Tate with the California Cadet Corps were contacted by representatives of Gov. Brown’s office expressing interest in establishing such schools around the state.
Through the efforts of City Manager John Lollis, then Mayor Ron Irish, Councilman Pete McCracken and others, a visit to Porterville took place in January, Snavely said.
“In that initial visit, we discovered that Gov. Brown was, and remains, interested in replicating the very successful Oakland Military Institute that he established while serving as Mayor of the City of Oakland,” Snavely said. “It quickly became evident that Porterville had been identified by state level officials as a potential site because of its well established culture of patriotism and the Porterville Unified School District’s on-going success with its Cadet Corps program.”
PUSD was able to demonstrate that not only did it have the capacity, culture and desire to establish a military institute, but also had a building and grounds well suited to the specific needs of such a unique school. At that time, it was believed the Governor’s Office might be able to assist with funding such a facility. However, with recent state budget developments, the option no longer exists.
“While the idea remains viable, the outside support has evaporated,” Snavely said. “Now we have the opportunity to continue down this path and control our own destiny.”
“It is important to recognize the value of establishing such an institute. The military institute model is designed to prepare students for college and career and focuses on three components: Leadership, instruction and athletics,” Snavely said. “This is a perfect match for the District’s Pathway and Linked Learning initiatives currently in place. Providing students the same college and career preparedness along with the very structured leadership component makes this a great fit for our community.”
OMI’s Superintendent, Mark Ryan, who has visited Porterville with other OMI staff members, on several occasions, agrees.
“This would be a college prep academy so it is all about getting kids into college,” said Ryan on Wednesday. “The military is an excellent foundation that provides the kind of support that helps a student get into college. The kind of characteristics associated with the military — looking good, exhibiting leadership, following rules, making the world a better place, commitment to service, being on time — translate to motions of kids getting into college.”
The concept of the Porterville Military Institute, Ryan said, is to have a college prep academy with the structure military can provide.
“It helps kids with service and aptitude and helps them get into college,” Ryan said. “My hope is that the people as a community care for its kids and want them to exceed with the highest possible level of success. This is just another Pathway Charter that will lead to success.”
The passage of Measure J, and the support of the Governor’s Office and the California National Guard are a combination of events that are not likely to occur again in the foreseeable future, Snavely said, and added that the timing is ideal to bring the unique educational program to the community.
Contact Esther Avila 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.