Andrew McKay 10/11/2019
During a presentation on military matters to the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Thursday, NAS Pensacola CO Captain Tim Kinsella gave an extensive presentation on the scope and status of Naval operations in the Pensacola area. Toward the end of his speech, Kinsella took time to express how much the Navy and his people appreciate Pensacola and love living here, saying, “Pensacola is a wonderful place to be. We all love it here. You love having us here. Got it.” Continuing, he said, “But there are some challenges here in Pensacola that mean when I put my Commanding Officer hat on, I cannot ignore. I would be remiss not to talk about it. Number one, it’s education. There are military families that do not want to be stationed here because of education. The families that have school-aged children, the first thing that they look at when they see that they have orders to Pensacola, ‘What are the schools like?’ So then they say, ‘I don’t want to go there.’”
Kinsella went on to explain that the billeting process gives sailors an option on computer to preference their top five possible assignments and that if they have school-age children “more often than not” they put NAS Pensacola at the bottom of their list. Kinsella emphasized that he recognizes improvements have been made and that many people are doing their best to improve the quality of education in the County, but he also said that this is an urgent problem he hopes to work together with the Chamber and the School District to “work together to get to where we need to be. And it’s not next year. It’s not five years from now. It’s now.”
In the course of the talk, Kinsella implored the gathered local leaders to work with him and the rest of the community toward improving the education system, especially in Warrington. He asked, “So how do we fix it? How do we get there? I can’t do it by myself. I need you. I need everybody in this room to be part of that, of getting to a solution that gives our families the option, a choice, where they can feel safe and securie in the knowledge that their kids are gonna get a good education. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their kids’ education to serve their country.”
When asked for any specific suggestions what can be done, he reassured local leaders that, “I, in no way, shape, or form…I’m not going to tell the Superintendent or the School Board how to do their business. That is theirs. But when I talk to my families, my Navy families, they would love to see a Charter school.” He acknowledged the mixed track record of such schools, but concluded, “I have to speak about what’s important for my military families. But I think that there would be knock-on effects that could be transformational for the Warrington area if there was a Charter School to give folks choice.”
Note: I subsequently interviewed Superintendent Malcolm Thomas about this material.