Kevin Young challenged the Poway Unified school board Tuesday night, citing a contract with the Navy and asking: “How come we can’t follow the rules?”
Young, parent of a Junior ROTC student at Westview High, first brought the issue to the board at its Nov. 14 meeting, requesting a second instructor for the program after a significant increase in members.
Young brought a copy of the contract between the Navy and the district, laying out the specifics for the Navy’s JROTC program. In it, PUSD agrees to supply two instructors—one retired officer and one retired enlisted person.
The contract states that the school is responsible for paying for “one half” of the instructors (see attached PDF). Currently, Westview’s JROTC program has one instructor, Cmdr. Rick Jordan.
“[The program] used to be under 100 students,” Young said. “This year, we’re 125 students. That’s quite an explosion.”
Young said that parents have found it “imperative” that Jordan receive a second instructor in order to relieve some stress.
At the Nov. 14 meeting, Poway Unified schools Superintendent John Collins said that while the number of students in the program is great, most of the teachers in district high schools are seeing more than 200 kids a day.
“There’s no reason this program shouldn’t attract the kind of funding it needs,” Collins said in November. “Unfortunately, the state of California doesn’t provide it.”
Young asked the school board why the district wasn’t “following the rules” regarding the contract.
“Is the board exempt from complying with contracts?” he asked.
Collins said the contract could be null and void if not followed, but that he doesn’t want to terminate the program, saying that Bill Chiment, PUSD’s associate superintendent, has worked with the Navy regarding the breach of contract.
“I don’t think anyone questions the quality and value of this program,” Chiment said. “The Navy continued the contract after it was notified of [just having one instructor.]”
The Westview High JROTC program has reportedly been on probation for the past three years because of the breach of contract.
Chiment said tremendous things are being done under “dire budget issues.” He went on to say that many other programs in the school are finding creative ways to work with what they have.
The Navy specifies what the salary will be for the district to pay an instructor, as well increased hours, according to Chiment.
“We pay for more than half of these positions,” he said.
There is no plan for the Navy to pull the program from Poway Unified, Chiment stated, even though the contract is not being honored.
“To me, it says they understand the tough budget situation,” Chiment said. “If we have anything to say about it, the program will continue.”
But parents still want an extra instructor.
David York, who had kids that went to Mt. Carmel High, said he wasn’t there to point fingers, but rather to work cooperatively.
“JROTC is a leadership program,” York said. “All I ask is that you look at your funding situation.
At the Nov. 14 board meeting, Collins and former president Vanderveen suggested to the parents of those with kids in the JROTC program start fundraising to help pay for an extra instructor.
Chiment reiterated the importance of fundraising at the Dec. 10 meeting.
“I’m hoping to find a resolution that we can raise those funds,” Chiment said. “When I hear people come up and speak about this program … I think we should take the time and effort that’s being focused on other things and devote them to fundraising.”
Robert Woodcock, who has a kid in the program, said he doesn’t think fundraising will do the trick.
“I’m concerned about that,” he told the board. “To base my career decision on a yearlong stint of $30,000 of fundraising, I would have kind of a hard time with that. I would imagine this military person would as well.”
Charles Cross, post commander for VFW Post 479 on Pomerado Road, said that “$30,000 is a small price to pay for the future leaders of our country,” urging the board to find money in the district’s budget.
“Let me just say that our music programs, our athletic programs, our band programs, our ag programs, our robotics program, none of them have found a philosophical problem with needing to raise funds to provide the support that our students deserve,” he said.
Board members Penny Ranftle and Todd Gutschow are meeting with Jordan on Friday to discuss more action, including fundraising options, on this issue.