Military Magnet Academy History
Twenty years ago, we opened the doors to this school with great expectations and dreams of creating a place where students would thrive and grow academically. We wanted to address the behavior problems and inspire students to become competent, disciplined and responsible citizens to lead “tomorrow’s” world.
The four pillars of our military style school were building an intellectual foundation, developing leadership skills, preparing the physical body, and developing ethical standards.
Building on the success and data resulting from the pilot project started as a volunteer service by Command Sergeant Major Joseph Dawson, Jr., the dream of taking the pilot project to scale in a schoolwide program was actualized. Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Barbara Dilligard, with help from Colonel James Coar and others, identified a list of generals and senior military officers to serve as an advisory panel and assist in developing this “new school.” The cooperation and support from Principal Andrea Heyer, Area Superintendent Jean Murray and other CCSD district staff resulted in a yearlong planning and preparation for the Military Magnet Middle School.
The Military Advisory Panel members, led by General Henry Doctor and other military senior officers volunteered countless hours and traveled great distances to plan and advise the CCSD team in the development of the school.
Facilitating the planning meetings and employing strategies to garner support for the new school were daunting tasks, but professionally rewarding because we kept imagining the possibilities and believing that the military principles would elevate all students, irrespective of their status, to realize their full potential.
The school opened in August 1997 with 6-8 grade students from across Charleston County. More than 1200 students registered and were accepted with the following criteria: interest of the parents and students; willingness to comply with program structure; and parent or adult mentor involvement in required program activities. No test scores or other criteria were used. A lottery system was used to randomly rank-order and select students for appropriate distribution among the three grades.
All students were required to attend a summer camp and the first year, three summer camps were conducted, one per grade level. In subsequent years one camp was conducted for the incoming sixth graders and new enrollees in other grades. The demand for entrance grew and a winter camp was conducted to accommodate second semester applicants.
Once the misconception of the school became clear to applicants that it was not a “discipline school” for misbehaving or uncontrollable students, the enrollment adjusted to students and parents who were committed to the tenants and purpose of the school.
After several successful years of student academic achievement and leadership growth, parents began to ask when were we going to extend the school to a high school. Again, the dream of expanding the school became a possibility based on parent and student support.
In 2003, after months of planning and curriculum development, the CCSD Board approved the recommendation from the Military Advisory Panel, school administrators and central office staff to add a grade each year to complete the 12th grade high school plan. Our first graduation class was 2007 and our average graduation rate is 90%.
Through the growing pains, staff transitions, and enrollment changes, we have been fortunate to have a strong academic faculty and staff, led by Mr. Anderson Townsend, to bring the middle school rated average to a high school rating “Excellent” for more than five years by the SC State Department of Education. As a Title I school, this rating is exceptional and demonstrates that students entering in the middle grades, performing at or below grade level, rise to the top by their high school years. This is proof of effective school characteristics.
In 1999, the Military Magnet School Foundation was formed to support the students with their academic and leadership training. Business partnerships with MEADWestvaco, North Charleston Rotary-Lunch and Breakfast, SPARWAR, EXXON Mobile, Rhodia and many other local businesses and community organizations have provided a lifeline of support for our cadets, administration and faculty. Under the leadership of Mr. John Snowden, the MMA Foundation continues to support cadets with scholarships, uniform purchases, field trip travel expenses, and many other items and activities which enable our students to learn and prepare for leadership.
Our cadets are also serving our community. They are featured in many military and civic ceremonies by posting the colors, participating at parades all over the county, annual Veteran’s Day events, and service organization activities, as requested.
During the summer, our cadets participate in excellent training programs on leadership and followship at the Marine Camp in Parris Island, Junior Leadership Course at Ft. Jackson, onsite leadership training and annual summer camp for new students at McGrady National Guard Center near Columbia, SC.
From middle school career exploratory classes, to career and technology courses, advanced placement courses, and college dual credit courses, MMA offers a challenging curriculum to address all student needs and interests. Built on the military discipline and environment, we are truly a unique experience…who could have imagined the possibilities and we are still moving forward.
The revitalization of our Military Magnet Academy Advisory Board will strengthen our tradition and efficacy as a military preparatory school. These generals and senior officers will once again, advise and support our way of life for developing young men and women.
Leaders of the 21st Century…march on and take your place in our society!