Parents, teens protest decline of JROTC in city high schools

April 18, 2001|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Dozens of parents and students crammed into the Baltimore school board meeting last night to protest any dismantling of the high school Junior ROTC programs they say have provided discipline and direction.

"We have teachers who take time to teach us leadership, discipline and patriotism. We need that," said Jamaal Simpson, of Walbrook High School's JROTC.

In some of the most passionate testimony before the board in recent months, supporters of the programs said the school system should come up with the money needed to retain the instructors.

Administrators decided not to give the instructors, who are certified by the armed services, the same increases that regular teachers got last July. Warren Kiilehua, a retired Army colonel and JROTC facilitator for the school system, told the board that an instructor with eight years at Polytechnic Institute earns $2,000 less than a first-year teacher.

Kiilehua also has said that programs at Southwestern and Southern high schools will be phased out at the end of the academic year in part because the schools can't afford them.

But Ted Thornton, a schools official, told the board that the Army had decided to close the JROTC programs at Southern and Southwestern. He has said that instructors are paid under a separate contract with the armed services.

Students and parents see the threat to JROTC as part of a trend. They said they could not understand how the city and state could spend money on building prisons while schools, libraries and recreation centers are being closed. Antoinette Spence said she had taken her son out of a private school and put him in Walbrook's JROTC , where instructors "have instilled discipline, leadership and teamwork." She said her son has missed only one day of school.

About 2,000 students take part in JROTC programs offered as an elective in Baltimore high schools.

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