Tufts E-News --An 'About Face' For Chelsea High
Thisyear, Chelsea High turned to a US Army Colonel and Tufts graduateto transform the school’s academic programs.Chelsea,Mass.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.10.04] For Morton Orlov II and the studentsand faculty at Chelsea High School, change couldn’t havecome at a better time. Orlov – a Tufts graduate and battle-testeda U.S. Army Colonel – was looking for a new opportunityafter a long career leading and training troops. And administratorsat Chelsea High were looking for a strong principal to turn theiracademic programs around; they hope the resulting match will takethe school by storm.
“Weneeded a leader,” Ferna O’Connor, president of theChelsea teachers union, told The Boston Globe. “If he canlead men in Haiti, I think he can lead teachers.”
O’Connorwas referring to Orlov’s widespread success during his careerin the armed service, during which he “stormed Grenada,helped the U.S. hand over power to the United Nations in Haiti,and commanded an armored infantry company in Panama,” reportedthe Globe.
Now he plansto be the force that transforms Chelsea High into a strong academicinstitution.
In a schoolwhose 10th-graders ranked in the bottom quarter of the state onthe 2003 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam, Orlovhopes to raise academic performance. But that’s no easytask in a school where 75 percent of the students speak Englishas a second language. Chelsea students come from 40 nations, and80 percent of them are low-income.
But Orlov– who has undergraduate and graduate degrees from TuftsUniversity, where he enlisted in the ROTC program as a freshman– wasn’t barking out orders as the students filedin for their first day of classes. Instead, the Tufts graduatewelcomed the students in the hallways.
“Youdoing alright? What’s you name? Jose?” he asked onestudent, according to the Globe. “Nice to meet you,”he told many, shaking their hands as they passed.
Some studentswere surprised by the colonel’s approachable nature.
“Iwas worried, first of all, about stricter rules,” freshmanVladimir Hernandez told the Globe. “I came here and therewere none – no strict rules, just really fair.”
Another freshmanthought it was a good idea to have someone with military experienceleading the school.
“Iplan on joining the military eventually so I think it’spretty good that we have somebody around here like that,”Michael Hein told the Globe.
The two –Orlov says – have much in common.
“Thinkabout it: When an Army is not fighting, what is it doing? It’straining, and training is not that different from education,”he told the Globe.
Orlov hasbeen teaching military science at Boston University for two years,where he also runs the school’s ROTC program. Using an anecdotefrom army history, Orlov told the Globe that in the Battle ofGettysburg, “A rhetoric professor named Joshua Chamberlainprotected the left flank of Little Round Top from Confederateforces,” and then won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“Socan great soldiers come from all walks of life? You bet,”Orlov told the newspaper. “Can great principals come fromthe soldeirs’ ranks? Well, I hope so.”