Navy pulls the plug on NJROTC program at CHS

The enrollment in the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) at Cairo High School has grown to 122 cadets, but that is not good enough for the Department of the Navy and the program is being disestablished.
Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis updated the Grady County Board of Education of the Navy’s decision during the school board meeting Tuesday night.
Because of a dramatic drop in enrollment prior to the tenure of Lieutenant Commander Alex Baker, the NJROTC program at Cairo High School was placed on probation a year ago, according to Dr. Pharis.
Up until now, the superintendent says, if your program was placed on probation one year and it remained on probation the following year you would lose the program. However, possibly due to budget restraints, the Navy is cutting out 28 programs nationwide including the one here.
Dr. Pharis solicited the aide of Congressman Sanford Bishop, who according to the superintendent, contacted Assistant Navy Secretary Juan Garcia on behalf of the local program.
In a letter dated Oct. 3, but just received in recent days by Grady County school officials, the assistant secretary writes to Congressman Bishop that in February of this year there were only 76 cadets enrolled, which was down from the counts in October, 2010. He wrote “Our decision to disestablish Cairo High School’s NJROTC program was a difficult one and was made only after careful review of their enrollment and in light of congressionally mandated requirements.”
Dr. Pharis describes Assistant Secretary Garcia’s letter as a “form letter” and told board members the Navy failed to address concerns raised by the local school system in a letter to Congressman Bishop, which Bishop shared with Navy officials.
“The Navy, by its action of scheduling our NJROTC unit for disestablishment before we submitted our enrollment report on Oct. 1, 2011, failed its own directives for units on probation,” Dr. Pharis wrote back in July.
Tuesday night Dr. Pharis bluntly said, “the Navy has changed the rules, due to budget cuts or whatever, but we are the victims here.”
The superintendent credited LCDR Alex Baker with the turn around of the program. “It is once again a viable program for our school and our community,” Dr. Pharis said.
Although the high school will lose the NJROTC designation, the Navy offers a similar program known as the Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) program, which Pharis says the school system should participant in.
The NNDCC program is modeled after the NJROTC program, but the biggest difference is that the host school is responsible for the primary funding of the program including instructor salaries, student uniforms and daily operational expenses. The Navy will continue to supply curriculum material, selected equipment and the forms and regulations required to conduct the program.
Currently, the Navy pays half of the salaries of the instructors and the uniform and operational expenses.
Dr. Pharis told board members he is prepared to develop a local budget for the program to establish the NNDCC program at Cairo High School.
Grady County Board of Education Vice Chairman Teresa Gee Harris asked if it would be possible to regain the NJROTC program.
“We are told that if we ever want to get the NJROTC program back we have to go though this program so there is always a chance we can get it back, but in the same breath they remind us they are still having to cut budgets and programs. So, the answer is we hope so,” Dr. Pharis said.
Board member Drew Pyrz encouraged the superintendent to develop a budget for the program and present it to the board for consideration for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
The NJROTC program at CHS will be disestablished as of the end of this school term.
Pharis is hoping to retain the current NJROTC instructors and fund the program with local funds beginning in the 2012-2013 school term.

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