DODDS teacher finds it hard to accept orders don’t apply to all
Melinda Newport thinks she made a mistake when she opted to return to Bahrain to teach math at the Department of Defense school this year.
Because of the ordered evacuation of military families and those of DOD civilians, she was unable to bring her daughter, Michelle, with her for the girl’s senior year.
“I’ve spent every night here crying,” said Newport in a telephone interview this week.
The U.S. Navy told family members to leave in July because of the security situation in the Persian Gulf region.
When the decision was made in August to open the school for this academic year because of the large number of foreign students, teachers were given the choice of leaving families behind or being reassigned within the Department of Defense Dependents Schools system.
Only nine chose not to return to Bahrain, said Linda Curtis, superintendent of DODDS’ Isles District, which oversees the school. Sixty-one are now teaching.
“The staff there feels safe and secure,” she said. “They’ve said that to me.”
She said the Navy checks buses that carry students, and security forces stand at the school compound gates.
Jennifer Beckwith, principal of the school, said, “Our teachers have a commitment to educate the children in this school. They were very pleased to be able to do that.”
But, Newport said, she was surprised when school began three weeks ago to find many American students in her classes. The evacuation order did not pertain to the families of embassy personnel and others outside the military.
Also, she said, DOD employees at the embassy were allowed to keep their families.
“Now I’m not so sure I’ve made the right decision,” she said.
The U.S. State Department originally issued an advisory against traveling to Bahrain and suggested Americans in the country should leave.
However, it rescinded that order in August. The Navy evacuation order remained in effect.
Enrollment at the school in recent years has been 700 or more in 12 grades and kindergarten. With military and DOD families evacuated, the enrollment now is 396, according to district figures.
Most of them are non-Americans from the region, but 139 American pupils are enrolled, including those of DOD employees at the embassy.
That’s difficult for Newport to take, she said, since DOD employees like her are separated from their families.
“It’s hard for us to see the difference,” she said. “When I look at my class and see one-third of them are American, I want to cry because my daughter is not allowed to be here.”
Other teachers, too, are unhappy with the situation, she said, but are unwilling to talk on the record.
Newport said she requested assignment at the school two years ago because of its international flavor. She said the school has an important role in forging relationships between Americans and people of the Middle East.
And, she said, she does not feel at risk in the country, despite the heightened tensions.
“I feel safer in Bahrain than in many places in the United States,” she said.
There seems no chance Newport and others will be able to have families join them during the school year.
Beckwith said, “We’ve been told the stop-movement is for the year.”
Curtis said, “We have told the teachers to plan on not having their dependents return this year.”