Grant means five more Virginia Beach high schools will embrace initiative helping military-connected districts

Dr. Aaron Spence, superintendent of schools for Virginia Beach, speaks during a ceremony announcing the grant on Friday, Sept. 15, at Naval Air Station Oceana. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA – A $4 million grant will help five Virginia Beach high schools implement a college readiness program through the National Math and Science Initiative, which works with schools serving military families.

That applies in Virginia Beach, home to Naval Air Station Oceana, where the grant was announced on Friday, Sept. 15.

“We have the largest military-connected school division in the country, I believe, with nearly 20,000 students who are military connected out of our 68,000 students,” said Dr. Aaron Spence, superintendent of schools in Virginia Beach, during an interview.

He said the high schools benefitting from this grant – Cox, Kempsville, Landstown, Ocean Lakes and Princess Anne – have a combined 9,500 students. More than 2,000 of them have military ties.

Spence said the grant provides money for teacher training, support for students taking advanced placement exams and incentives for performing well. It aims to build a pipeline of students into advanced placement course, he said.

The readiness program is not new to the district. This initiative launched a decade ago, and Virginia beach earned grants for Green Run and Salem high schools in 2011 and for Bayside, Kellam and Tallwood high schools a year later. The program aims to grow the number of students in college-level classes in math, science and English.

Gregg Fleisher, president of the initiative, said it has worked with 500 districts to prepare students for college and science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, commonly called STEM. 

Such studies were a focus of the Oceana Air Show the weekend of the announcement. It brought thousands of fifth graders to the air station for hands on learning.

Schools that are succeeding, such as those in Virginia Beach, still realize they can grow through the program, Fleisher said during an interview. Grant funds provide access to mentors, technology and more.

“We want to see an increase in the number of students in advanced placement math and science exams,” he said. “We want to see the Virginia Beach schools lead the state.”

The nonprofit, funded by organizations that include businesses and the federal government, has served about 2 million students and more than 50,000 teachers. It also helps military installations.

Funding for Virginia Beach to implement the initiative came from a U.S. Department of Defense grant, according to the Virginia Beach schools.

U.S. Navy Capt. Rich Meadows, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Oceana, speaks during the press conference at the air station. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

Information about the readiness program is available online via

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