Jr. ROTC fate still uncertain
Students, parents question commitment
By LPR Staff
A recent announcement that the Air Force Junior ROTC at Lockhart High School may be disbanded next year led to heated discussion during Tuesday evening”s meeting of the LISD Board of Trustees.
More than 25 concerned members of the community – many students, parents and veteran
s – attended the meeting to show support for the embattled program and the students it seeks to assist.
“When you”re in the counseling room with these kids and hearing about all the stress, you become taken with their problems,” said Juanita Johnson, a former counselor with LISD. “This program gives them something to hold on to – something besides the pressure that they are under every day.”
Her husband, Melvin Johnson, also spoke in support of the program.
“I can only tell you what ROTC did for me,” he said. “It gave me some structure, which I needed when I was in school, and it gave me the opportunity and tools to build the future that I have been blessed to have. It teaches you how to be a follower, and then it teaches you how to be a leader.”
Both Johnsons reminded the Board and administration that a student”s choice to participate in an ROTC program does not guarantee the student will enlist in the military.
Later, ROTC Cadet Dana Raiford, an LHS senior came forward.
“You tell us that you support this program, but what is it that you”re doing for us,” she asked. “We work every afternoon, but we have only had one administrator come to one competition. I know that the other programs we have at this school are special and wonderful, but we are learning so much from Capt. Fiore and MSgt. Silva.”
Raiford emotionally begged the board to recognize the program and take action to show the support they so readily voice. Raiford drew a standing ovation from not only the citizens present at the meeting, but from many LISD administrators and staff members.
Later, the board asked administrators for a report on the progress of the program.
According to LHS principal Larry Ramirez, an ROTC administrator on the regional level told him recently that the plug will not be pulled on the program if it remains viable, despite the fact that the ROTC program has failed to reach the enrollment numbers required to receive government funding.
“There is not a person in this room that doesn”t want to see the ROTC succeed,” Ramirez said. “And I think the program is viable, so all we can do with that is take Col. Goetz at his word.”
The board, however, questioned the definition of the word “viable.”
“We aren”t getting any information that makes me very confident in this situation,” said Trustee Timoteo “Tim” Juarez, Jr. “We have parents and students that are waiting for something concrete on this issue, and we can”t say whether the program is “viable,” because we don”t know “viable” by whose standards.”
LISD Superintendent John Hall met the challenges with a combination of resolve and anger.
“I feel as though I have been vilified for not supporting this program, and that couldn”t be farther from the truth,” he said. “Of course I support this program, and I think we all do. But it”s competing against all the other elective courses available to the students, and I can”t draft students into this program.”
The Board asked Hall and Ramirez to work with ROTC Commander Capt. Bob Fiore to prepare a report for the next board meeting, explaining exactly what is being done to promote the ROTC program during enrollment. Additionally, Hall committed to contacting state- and national-level elected officials to enlist their help.
In other board business, the trustees met briefly with Jennifer Douglas, a financial advisor from First Southwest, the district”s financial firm. Douglas brought the board a proposal to issue bonds to refinance outstanding bond projects. According to Douglas, the refinance will save the district upwards of $700,000 over the course of the next 20 years.
The board also heard a request from Kim Bruch, a district parent that has been researching the availability of art programs at the elementary level.
“Right now, we do not meet the [state] standards for art education at the elementary level,” she said. “We are the only district in the area that does not offer art education at the elementary level.”
Bruch said that she has discussed the situation with teachers and administrators at each of the elementary schools, as well as with Assistant Superintendent Phil McBride and has been assured district budget requests for the next year include positions for four elementary-level art teachers.
“I”m sure if you think about it, some of your memories from art education when you were a child are some of your fondest from your school years,” she said. “And I know this is a big-ticket item to discuss. But I”m begging you not to take it out of the budget, and to think about the well-being and the education of our children. They need to have art education.”
Because she spoke during a public forum, the Board could not respond to Bruch”s request. However, she did volunteer to appear at the next board meeting, should her request be added to the agenda.
In brief board news:
The Trustees recognized 16 members of LHS Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) for their accomplishments at regional competition last month. Giving a record performance, 16 of the 19 students that competed will advance to the State competition in March.
They also recognized several Lockhart Junior High School students who participated in a UIL Academic Meet this month. The LJHS teams won two first place finishes and one second place finish in District UIL Competition.
Hall reported to the Board regarding the number of continuing education hours each board member has completed during their tenure.
A calendar for the 2007-2008 school year was discussed and approved. The calendar will be distributed to students and parents in the near future, and will also be available on the district”s website.
The district extended its contract with ARAMARK to provide food service for the campuses next school year.
The Board convened into an executive session to discuss contract renewals for administrators, athletic directors, department heads, assistant superintendents and principals.
The LISD Board of Trustees usually meets on the last Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Conference Center at Lockhart High School.