Role Models run with military precision

March 19, 2001

Role Models run with military precision


Retired U.S. Army Col. Jimmie Jones wants to help young people be all they can be. And he's got a plan to do it.

The principal/commandant at National Role Models Academy near Cascade runs the school with military precision and enforces a strict "zero tolerance" policy, but said he treats students with the respect they need to help them realize their full potential.

"I'm concerned about the total student," Jones said.

At Role Models, that translates into a round-the-clock job with no days off.

Jones lives with his wife on the grounds of Role Models Academy, a military-style boarding school at the former Fort Richie Army base. He serves as principal, surrogate parent and coordinator of extracurricular activities, religious services and groundskeeping duties at a school that caters primarily to high school dropouts, he said.


This kind of responsibility might cause stress for some school administrators, but not Jones.

"I don't get stressed," said Jones, 55.

And he's got the "liver patch" to prove it.

The Department of Army staff badge that Jones wears pinned to his uniform near his liver symbolizes his survival of a high-stress job at the Pentagon, he said.

Jones was charged with granting or denying promotions to military personnel and giving them their assignments - including sending soldiers into combat, he said.

Jones' Pentagon post was a blip on the screen in his 26-year Army career.

As a specialist in air defense artillery and personnel management, Jones' jobs ranged from commanding a Patriot missile battalion to serving as personnel manager for the entire National Guard - overseeing about 412,000 people, he said.

During the Vietnam War, Jones said, he was an Army advisor to the Phoenix program. The Central Intelligence Agency developed the Phoenix, or Phung Hoang, program in 1967 to assassinate, capture or arrange the defection of Vietnamese civilians suspected of supporting communists, according to former CIA analyst Ralph McGehee's Web site.

Career change

Jones retired from active military service in 1993.

He then focused on balancing his military expertise with the civilian experience he needed to achieve his "ultimate goal" - to become a school system superintendent in order to help young people, he said.

Jones designed a five-pronged plan.

"I knew what I wanted to do and I knew what I needed to do to get there," he said.

To be a successful superintendent, Jones decided he would have to master curriculum writing and implementation, understand the problems faced by students, grasp teachers' concerns, know how to manage facilities, and earn a doctoral degree in education.

He already holds a bachelor's degree in math and chemistry and a master's degree in counseling psychology.

"If I know how to do all those things I can be a superintendent," Jones said. "I'll just need someone to open the door."

After developing his plan, he executed it.

Jones worked for a year at the Academy of Health and Science in Virginia writing drug and alcohol courses for service officers. He took a job as a guidance counselor at a tough high school near Washington.

He also worked as math teacher, ROTC adviser, assistant principal and teacher recruiter at one of the largest high schools in Arizona, he said.

Jones is now working toward his doctoral degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Miami.

He did what he felt he must to become a schools superintendent, then Robert L. Alexander opened the door.

New opportunity

Alexander, founder and president of the National Role Models Academy, was trying to launch the school in 1994 when three Army generals called him to recommend Jones as the man to execute the vision, he said.

When the time was right, Jones accepted.

After visiting a top-notch private school in Washington, he designed a program for Role Models that blends a rigorous three-year high school course schedule with military leadership training.

The 217-day school year is divided into three trimesters with seven classes each day, athletic programs twice weekly and military leadership training three times a week.

All Role Models students are enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, and some students take one-credit computer classes offered through Hagerstown Community College, Jones said.

The minimum eight credits that Role Models students can earn each year, including the seven academic classes and one military leadership lab, enable them to graduate in three years with at least 24 core credits, Jones said.

The state requires a minimum of 18 core credits and allows four years for graduation.

"It will not take any student four years to graduate from here," Jones said. "I will not keep them here that long."

There are no second chances for students who fail to follow the rules at Role Models, he said.

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