"I feel a little bit like I got hit in the gut," says Doug Bullard, the
JROTC instructor at Lowell High School. "It's unfair to leave the instructors
in limbo like this."
The board passed an amendment to the
JROTC measure last night saying that if fewer than 50 students are
enrolled in the program at a school, that school can decide to axe the
program for the following year. Currently, two high schools fall into
that category, but that's because the school district revoked the PE
credit for the program for the current school year, making it
impossible for many students to fit the elective into their class
schedule. Enrollment is down from 1,600 students district wide three
years ago to just around 500 this year. (The national headquarters for
the JROTC program requires that 100 students be enrolled in the program
at a single school for them to continue to split the salaries of the
teachers with the school district.)
According to Buschman, the
board will decide at the next meeting whether to to allow JROTC credit
to substitute for the required PE credit to graduate, from which the
district could predict enrollment numbers. The school district received
a letter from the state this week saying the district has the authority
to do so.
"It is unlikely that any more than two of [the
instructors] would be laid off, and more than likely none of them would
be laid off," says Buschman.
Still, two JROTC-supporting board
members are angry about the district leaving the instructors in limbo
after three years of uncertainty about the fate of their jobs ever
since the board voted to phase out the program.
"They are actual
people even though they're not being treated not like real people,"
says Commissioner Jill Wynns. "It's amazing these instructors have
stayed with us as long as they have."
The JROTC instructors say
they're unclear how long of a grace period they'll have to prove that
they will have more than 50 students for next year. "They say you can
have the program and a grace period to build up the program, and if you
don't have at least 50 kids, the principal can decide not to have the
program," says Gerry Paratore, the instructor at Balboa High School.
"It's going around and around in this circle until you're crazy."
Read our cover story on the JROTC debate here.