They say “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” but unless you are a Marine, my guess is that you don’t read “Leatherneck,” the magazine of the U.S. Marines.
As unlikely as it may seem, there’s a piece in this month’s edition of “Leatherneck” that’s focused on one of Collier County Public Schools’ alternative school programs. The article is about New Beginnings - Naples entitled “New Beginnings, A School Where Failure Is Not an Option.”
You can read it online at www.collierschools.com, posted “In the Spotlight.” So, what about the Marines connection? Well, the school, serving about 60 students in grades 4 through 8, follows a military model and gets a ton of help from the local Marine Corps League.
Principal Bill Spano tells us that the school, which opened in 1994, serves “students who’ve been involved in serious breaches of school rules or state laws” — in other words, students who just don’t do well in a traditional school setting.
Lead Teacher Eric Peltz, or “Captain” as he’s referred to by his students, explains that “these are not bad kids. They are kids who have done bad things.”
The school uses what’s known as a positive reinforcement behavior modification program. According to Captain Peltz, “New Beginnings is the only school of its kind in Florida and perhaps the nation, and this article, from the Marine Corps Association’s perspective, is an attempt to get other school districts, as well as other Marine Corps Leagues, to gain interest in replicating our model.”
It has been replicated here in Collier County. New Beginnings - Immokalee, which opened three years ago, serves about 30 students at any given time. And the Immokalee program is now enjoying the same success as the Naples program in turning kids’ lives around and getting them back into a regular classroom.
Spano views what he sees happening with these students as a “small miracle.” According to Spano, “The things I see occurring with these young lives, those kids, is the result of the work my wonderful staff does.”
Seeing staff recognized means a lot to Spano as well. Teacher Kim Sweat, as a Golden Apple recipient this year, and Staff Sergeant Jeff Groce, as the district’s nominee to be Florida School-Related Employee of the Year, are the latest in a long line of outstanding employees to be recognized.
Seeing what all of the dedicated New Beginnings employees do to help our kids and seeing the kids getting back on track to where they need to be “gives me a tremendous amount of pride and joy when I finally head home each evening,” says Spano. For him and everyone at New Beginnings, failure is not an option!