Bruce Derr, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Japan district superintendent.

Bruce Derr, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Japan district superintendent. (Vince Little / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Japan is dividing Zama American High School into separate institutions for high school and middle school students as they report for a new year Tuesday.

Bruce Derr, DODDS-Japan district superintendent, said grades 7-8 and 9-12 initially will share the same campus but plans are to add buildings and personnel at Zama Middle School by 2007-08.

A new principal and information specialist will be assigned to Zama Middle School “but the academic program will be similar to last year’s, with a few staff members working at both schools,” Derr said. “Next year, more staffing and funding will be allocated to Zama Middle School, resulting in more autonomy for both schools.

“Opening a middle school at Camp Zama has been a dream of mine since coming to the district office in 1999,” he said.

He said enrollment is lower than projected this year throughout the Japan district. Officials expected 9,287 students but had 8,660 as of last week. More are anticipated in the next month.

Sasebo Elementary School is the only school in DODDS-Japan above enrollment projections, he added.

“Presently, space is not an issue,” Derr said. “We monitor enrollment throughout the district on a daily basis to determine whether we have enough staffing and space to handle the number of students enrolled.”

In other new developments:

• The class of 2007 is the first graduating class required to have a 2.0 cumulative grade point average for graduation, as part of a Department of Defense Education Activity-wide policy. To ensure awareness of the new requirement, the American Forces Network has run several news spots and school administrators and counselors are working with parents and students.

“There was no minimum requirement before,” said Dr. Paula Miller, Japan district superintendent’s office staff chief. “If they passed, they got the credit and earned a diploma. Now, it’s basically requiring a C average. If a student gets Ds all the way through high school, they’re not going to make it.”

• Two years ago, DODDS-Pacific established the Pacific Literacy Project, an elementary-based program aimed at elevating students’ reading abilities to current grade levels or above, and an administrator here says it’s working.

“It’s an outstanding and very effective program in the elementary schools,” Derr said. “The initial results of the PLP have been excellent. This program has proven to be a successful strategy in our efforts to ensure academic success for every student.”

In addition to taking part in Pacific-wide DODDS initiatives for foreign-language training, all DODDS-Japan schools are beginning a “School Improvement” cycle, he added.

Each site is to determine local goals for the next few years. A North Central Association team will visit four schools during the second semester. The nonprofit organization specializes in accreditation and educational improvement, according to its Web site at

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