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DCSS puts its best foot forward at MCLB

From left, Col. Don Davis, commander of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, addresses Dougherty County interim School Superintendent Butch Mosely and School Board members Velvet Riggins and Lane Price at the base’s back-to-school session Thursday night. Dougherty officials are offering children of Marines their parents’ picks of schools to attend in the Dougherty School System. (July 18, 2013)

From left, Col. Don Davis, commander of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, addresses Dougherty County interim School Superintendent Butch Mosely and School Board members Velvet Riggins and Lane Price at the base’s back-to-school session Thursday night. Dougherty officials are offering children of Marines their parents’ picks of schools to attend in the Dougherty School System. (July 18, 2013)

MCLB-ALBANY -- Dougherty County interim School Superintendent Butch Mosely and more than 35 of the system's front-line administrators and principals went hunting Thursday night.

The objects of their desire? The best and brightest school children of Marines stationed at MCLB-Albany.

The DCSS and the base's parents held an education information meeting, with Mosely taking to opportunity to tout the district's recent "freedom of choice" program that allows active Marine parents, residing on base or not, to choose the DCSS school their children will attend.

"We're here on a recruiting mission," Mosely told the crowd. "We're looking for five-star students ... and if they are also five-star athletes, well, that's just icing on the cake.

"We are here offering you and your children the opportunity to sign on with a growing system. We want you if you want us."

While the meeting had been scheduled for weeks, the recent dust-up with the Worth County School System, where 57 on-base children are enrolled, no doubt added to the full house.

The Worth County School Board conducted a called meeting Tuesday night at which the board voted unanimously to amend a policy decision it made July 11 that would have prevented the children of active-duty Marines assigned to Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany to attend schools in the district.

Tuesday's amended decision will "grandfather in" the MCLB-Albany children who are already attending the system, allowing them to remain in their current schools. Further discussions will take place with MCLB-Albany and WCSS about a possible stipend for future enrolled students.

"This is a great turnout, this is awesome," base Commander Col. Don Davis said. "We are here to dispel myths about the Dougherty County School System, and this meeting is all about the future."

Perhaps best representing that future was Brandi Wetegrove. She and her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 1 Michael Wetegrove, have three children ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade.

"We've been here right at a year," Brandi Wetegrove said. "Last year, all three of our kids went to Deerfield. I'm here to support the other families and trying to get my kids into Lake Park this year."

Mosely assured her that Lake Park would welcome her children.

Prior to the Dougherty School Board's "freedom of choice" decision, the Wetegroves were considering buying a house in Lee County.

Master Sgt. Richard Garcia and his wife, Marisa, said their seventh-grade daughter was one of the 57 students who had been affected by the Worth decision.

"We are here to provide support," Marisa said. "We are happy with Worth County so far, but if we have to pay tuition, that could be a different story."

Maj. David Laughlin has three children in the DCSS -- one each at Lake Park, Merry Acres Middle and Westover High.

"We have had a good experience with the system," Laughlin said. "My oldest is a little mouthy and had an incident where she got into tussle at school. But the DCSS reacted well and handled it quickly.

"We have never felt our children were not safe at the schools."

DCSS officials said Thursday night they had picked up five new base students to go along with the more than 200 (on- and off-base) who are enrolled in the system.