DODEA ushers in its 70th school year

by Lois Rapp, Director of Student Excellence
DoDEA Pacific
I’d like to welcome all the new and returning students, their families, and staff members as we begin our 2016-2017 school year in the Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific!
Our 48 schools, across Japan, Korea, and Guam serve more than 23,000 military-connected students and families.  As we enter our 70th year of operation, I’m very proud of the work our 3,000-plus staff and faculty do every day to carry on a tradition of excellence that actually began more than 70 years ago on a small scale in Korea in November 1945 when the first military dependents school was established in Korea at the old Air Base, Yongsan with 99 students enrolled.
In May 1946, the first U.S. military dependents arrived in Japan and schools in the Pacific region began operations in earnest.  School operations eventually spanned a wide expanse of the Pacific Theater, and included places such as the Philippines, Midway Island, and Taiwan.  By the 1960s, there were an estimated 160,000 students enrolled in more than 300 schools around the world.  As the U.S. military mission has transformed to a changing world environment, the footprint of DoDEA schools in the Pacific transformed as well.  Throughout the decades, DoDEA schools in the Pacific were configured to provide instructional facilities and education in the areas wherever our Nation’s military forces serve, retaining the organizational flexibility required to adapt in what is sometimes a dynamic overseas environment. 
Our current organization is undergoing a transformation to realign resources to better support students and staff members.  Under the Restructuring for Student Achievement (RSA) initiative, DoDEA Pacific has shifted from four districts to three – Pacific East, West, and South – realigning resources in order to allow teachers and administrators to focus on education and instructional leadership while receiving responsive administrative and logistical support.  This process should be mostly transparent to our students and educators, especially at the school level.  All of these changes will facilitate the complete implementation of DoDEA’s College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS).  
The goals of the CCRS in mathematics and literacy are to ensure that students have the content knowledge and skills required to be successful in any and all future endeavors upon high school graduation.  Implementation of these standards began last year in Kindergarten through 5th Grade mathematics classrooms.  In 2016-2017, College and Career Ready Standards for Mathematics will be implemented in 6th-8th Grade classrooms and in some 9th-12th Grade classrooms.  In School Year 2016-2017, College and Career Ready Standards for Literacy will be implemented in 6th-12th Grade Classrooms.  Finally, in School Year 2018-2019, College and Career Ready Standards for Literacy will be implemented in Kindergarten through 5th Grade classrooms
As students pursue their educational goals in DoDEA Pacific schools, they are presented with a wide range of opportunities to learn and grow. At the school level, students may participate in Future Business Leaders of America, National 
Honor Society, STEM-focused studies and a variety of other programs.
High school students may extend their classroom learning via an array of rigorous co-curricular academic events such as Journalism, , Model United Nations, Creative Expressions in Art and Film, Drama and Performing Arts, Culinary Arts, Science Research Symposium or Music Academic Events in Jazz, Modern Music, Choir, Orchestra and Band.  These interactions are invaluable in preparing students to understand the real-world workplace in these fields of study, complex dynamics of international relations, current trends in technology, and world-wide communications.
In addition, DoDEA Pacific High Schools offer students comparable experiences as their counterparts in schools in the United States which support DoDEA’s primary goal of highest student achievement.  The Pacific Region 
Interscholastic Athletic Program promotes and encourages participation of students in grades 9-12 in supervised activities to enhance students’ social, physical, and emotional development.  Athletic participation is a valuable educational experience, directly complements academic performance, promotes continuous learning, and productive physical and character development.  Our schools support athletic teams in 17 different sports divided into a fall, winter, and spring seasons.  Most schools also have regular season schedules where they participate against other DoDEA Pacific schools, and in some of our schools students compete with host-nation club teams.  Most team sports have a Far East final competitive tournament where all high schools may participate.  
All DoDEA Pacific High Schools have a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Program.  Using their standards-based curriculum and mentorship provided by the experienced instructors, students develop discipline, leadership, team skills, and work ethics, all important College and Career Ready skills.  Further, for those students entering military service, there are benefits that accrue due to enrollment in JROTC.  JROTC offers many co-curricular activities like community service, training, and formal functions that further enhance the development of College and Career Ready Skills.  JROTC also provides the opportunity to participate in Marksmanship and Drill athletic competitions. 
DoDEA Pacific Schools’ Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs continue to purposefully expand to prepare students for college and career opportunities in the digital age.  Computer science and robotics learning opportunities are active in many of our schools with teams competing at the regional and world-championship levels here in the Pacific as well as in the United States.  
As we look toward the future, DoDEA Pacific is in the midst of building or renovating schools throughout the Pacific.  These flexible and adaptable spaces provide an environment that can support rapid changes in technology and advances in curriculum and instructional techniques.  The design and construction of our schools consider the facility itself as a teaching tool and consider how every square foot can contribute to education.  The new Osan American Elementary School will open school this school year followed by three schools in Korea, Okinawa and Japan in January 2017.
I am excited about the challenges and opportunities we face and proud to serve as the Director of Student Excellence for DoDEA Pacific.  Our students are at the heart of everything we do and they are magnificent – earning recognition as U.S. Presidential Scholars, U.S. Senate Youth Program, and the Harvard Model Congress Asia.  
As we move towards completing the implementation of College and Career Ready standards and opening 21st century learning facilities, we can offer students a world class education in environments that are truly unique and contribute to the development of young men and women who have the tools to make an impact on our great nation. 
Again, let me offer a warm welcome to all of our students, families and staff members!  I look forward to seeing many of you as we start another exciting year in DoDEA Pacific!

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