Gen. Richard Mills, U.S. Marines commander, speaks at the recent dedication of the school's new campus. Credit: Josh Johnston

Local politicians and military leaders, as well as parents, students and friends were on hand March 20 for dedication of the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy’s new digs.

Speakers praised the school’s academic performance. Keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Richard Mills stressed that NOMMA has achieved its storng “B” performance grade as an open-enrollment school, not by limiting admissions to already strong academic achievers.

The requirements for admission are that a student meet the standards for joining the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and follow NOMMA’s policy on school uniforms. A rule that 9th-grade students must have passed the iLEAP test was part of the school’s founding charter but may be out of step with the system-wide OneApp process the school now uses.

Board president, retired Marine Col. Terry Ebbert, thanked the school’s commandant, Col. Bill Davis, and principal, Cecilia Garcia, calling them the driving forces behind NOMMA. He also thanked former Recovery School District superintendent Paul Vallas for leading a movement toward charter schools and school choice that allowed founding a military high school.

Outgoing City Council member Jackie Clarkson called herself the “mother of Federal City,” a reference to the redeveloped former military base that includes the school. She said she has been a long-time friend to area military personnel, whom she called “the best of New Orleans.”

NOMMA and the Marine Corps Reserve Headquarters are Federal City’s two major tenants. The development was financed with $150 million in federal money. Other tenants include the YMCA, Coast Guard Sector Command, N.O.P.D. 4th District Headquarters and several small businesses.

Total cost of NOMMA’s new facility is estimated at $17 million, with around $14 million for construction and another $3 million to lease the land and cover interest and financing fees. The Joint Development Committee that runs Federal City recently forgave $400,000 of debt that had accrued to NOMMA.

The school hopes to fund renovation of a nearby metal structure for classes and equipment storage. When the high school reaches its four-grade capacity next year, the school will need the space for JROTC classes, Davis said at the board’s last meeting.