On Tuesday, School Superintendent Alison Strong notified JROTC Colonel Mark Duffield that the school system was shutting down the JROTC Program. Duffield told the Journal it had to do with money. He said Strong told him it was a matter of cost vs the number of students impacted.
Late word Tuesday evening from parent Sandy Thompson that there will be a meeting at the School Board office at 9:00 am Wednesday morning. Thompson said she expected the Superintendent to be there and she expected there would be an explanation of why the JROTC program was being terminated.
The decision came as a shock to cadets and their parents. Two of them, Sandy Thompson and Tamisin Lewis are working to rally support in the community to save the JROTC program. Thompson’s son and Lewis’ daughters are pictured in their BDU uniforms.
Duffield and Senior Master Sergeant Lawrence Bunton’s contracts run through the end of June. Those contracts with the school system are not being renewed, even though the Air Force pays half of their salary.
Col. Duffield told the Journal it means there will be no JROTC at Red River High next year, or anytime in the future. Duffield said they were not “on the chopping block” from the Air Force. The unit had passed a recent Air Force inspection and several cadets had just completed the summer Cadet Leadership Course. In addition, incoming freshmen were being signed up for the program next year.
Lewis has two daughters and Thompson has a son in JROTC.
Thompson’s son, Zachary is Cadet Commander of the Color Guard. Lewis said, “We’re just asking for a chance. Our kids want a chance to prove they can do this. It can mean life changing things.” Thompson noted, “There was a big change in my kid as he gained confidence and drastically matured. He set out his career path based upon JROTC and a military career.” And she asked, “Isn’t this what school is supposed to do? Prepare kids for their future?”
Both parents expressed extreme disappointment that the school system would take this action. They said they were not contacted in advance, and none of the other parents or cadets were either as far as they’ve heard.
Thompson said, “JROTC is no different than sports players and athletic scholarships. It gives them options. It helps them find a place to belong.”