Cadets ready to report for duty at military charter school in Clayton

CLAYTON — Young cadets in St. Drexel Hall at First State Military Academy sat crowded at cafeteria tables Thursday night.

Dressed in uniform, they were listening intently to their instructor Terrance Jordan.

He talked them through the ins and outs of life at the new charter school, telling them about their uniforms and helping them practice standing at attention. “At the end of the day … my goal is to see each and every one of you succeed,” Mr. Jordan told them.

On Aug. 26, about 210 high school freshmen and sophomores are set to arrive at First State Military Academy in Clayton for their first day of school.

Thursday was a briefing night for students enrolled at the new charter school, a chance for them to go over regulations and expectations.

Modeled after Delaware Military Academy in Wilmington, the school will offer a Marine JROTC program.

The curriculum will be based on “New Tech” schools, which teach through teamwork and projects.
The New Tech model also emphasizes technology use.

“I’ve got to congratulate them because they’ve made a hard choice in coming here. It’s different. A lot of students don’t like change,” said Patrick Gallucci, the school’s commandant.

“They’ve got to adhere to their purpose and it’s going to take them a couple of weeks to get into the flow.”

Chris Martin said his son Tyler, who has siblings in the Marine Corps, was drawn to the school, in part, because of its focus on technology.

“He’s ecstatic,” Mr. Martin said, after Tyler and the other students had left the cafeteria for a briefing in another classroom.

first state info boxMr. Martin said they had been visiting the campus for meetings since the winter, when the buildings were still busy construction sites.

Once the site of St. Joseph’s Industrial School, the campus is now ready to welcome students once more. Blue lockers lined the hallway in St. Drexel Hall.

“To see the transition was pretty nice,” Mr. Martin said.

Starting a military academy downstate was an idea years in the making.

Organizers looked up and down Kent County for property before they settled on the site in Clayton in early 2014.

Since then, crews have worked hard to renovate the buildings, including St. Michael’s Hall, Drexel Hall and a media center.

Another building, Morrill Hall, will be in use next year, Mr. Gallucci said.

For now, organizers are busy getting everything ready to open the school for the first time this month.

“It is harder because you’re asking one to two people to do the job of 10 people in a district school,” Mr. Gallucci said before he addressed parents Thursday night.

“…[I]t’s a lot of hard work.”

Registration is wrapping up now, he said, and teachers report Aug. 20.

“I’m excited, I really am,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

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