Young Marines to Replace Air Force JROTC

School Superintendent Alison Strong met with parents of JROTC cadets and other members of the public Wednesday at the school board office.  Strong said the meeting was to listen to the public concerning the cancellation of the JROTC program at Red River High School, and to explain that she is working on a better program to offer students.

Several parents expressed their frustration, disappointment and vexation at news out Tuesday that the program was being cancelled and the two retired Air Force instructors were not being retained.  Strong said, “I am hearing passion about wanting to keep the program.  What’s gonna happen next?  I don’t take away from kids and don’t replace it.”

Before revealing the plans for a new program, Strong explained the reasons for ending JROTC.  They included economics and a low number of students participating.

Finance Director David Jones told the gathering the school system spent $167,000 of their money and $54,000 from the Air Force on JROTC.  Due to low enrollment Jones said, “We have a much larger expense per student in JROTC than any other course offering.”

Strong cited other reasons for dropping JROTC including low instructor workload, small class sizes, and inflexibility in the AF contract that did not allow the instructors to do any of the other tasks that all other teachers are required to do.

The final straw, said Strong, would be that the Air Force would shut down the program anyway in October due to consistently not meeting goals to enroll at least 10% of the high school population in the program.

Strong said, “What if I told you guys we found a way to do everything for your kids that would not cost the district the amount we are now spending.  There are other programs that do not cost as much as JROTC.  We have staff that are retired military, and they can take it and run it and not cost as much as JROTC.”

For the future, Strong said, “The plan at this moment is to start a Young Marines program.  We have two retired Marines in good standing that we already employ.”  As for the students, Strong said, “They will still get rank and awards, still do community service, and there is a drug education program that is not included in JROTC.”

Cadet Zachary Thomson, the commander of the Color Guard, asked, “What happens to current kids?”  Strong admitted, “We don’t know at this point.  We will give kids every opportunity.  We don’t have to meet a viability standard like JROTC.  I expect us to have 100 kids easily.”

Strong said that they were planning to announce the new Young Marines program would replace JROTC in a couple of weeks.  However, she expressed disappointment that the word got out and spread in social media before she had a chance to unveil the new program.  She summarized the meeting with, “I ask that all try to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.  We will be as transparent as possible as we move forward.  Students, we care about you, and we love you.  Change is not always a bad thing.  It just could turnout for the better.”