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Tug of war over ROTC deal
City school board to review contract with Navy training program
Gainesville High ROTC members perform a log drill as they group divides into two teams for an endurance competition Friday morning. Each team had to complete a course which included lifting a 25-pound ammo can repeatedly, flipping a large tire, carrying then dragging a 50-pound sea bag.

Gainesville Board of Education members will take some time next month to look over the contract the high school shares with the U.S. Navy for the junior ROTC program.

The Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps was brought into Gainesville High School beginning in the 2008-09 school year. The main issue board members say they have with the contract is they have never seen it.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Vice Chairwoman Delores Diaz said. “It’s just that we need to know what it is.”

Members were asked to vote on updated language in the contract at the March 17 meeting. The new wording was accepted, but Diaz, Chairwoman Maria Calkins and board member Sammy Smith agreed the entire contract needs to be reviewed more closely.

Diaz said some items that were said to be included in the contract “don’t seem to support the (Gainesville) mission.” She later said it was more a matter of simply knowing specifically what was in the document.

“We had not seen any of the contractual information before, and there were some items in there that we had questions about so we just wanted to have a discussion later, when we had a chance to examine the document and make sure that it’s aligned with our goals for all of our students,” she said.

Board members did not specify what language raised concerns. Instructor Master Sgt. Jack Reese indicated it might be wording requiring legal residency for ROTC participants.

Reese added the contract is a “military document” and the wording does come from the recruiting “side of the house.”

“It’s got some wording in there, like you’ve got to be a legal resident,” he said. “That is so not true. As a matter of fact, I just called my boss in Pensacola, Fla., and he’s going to the underwriters as we speak to try to get those terms taken out of it.

“We are not recruiters,” he said. “That is just the furthest thing from the truth. Now, if you do decide to go into the military, there are benefits from doing junior ROTC.”

Reese said he’s seen how students improve in self-confidence and leadership skills while being in ROTC.

“We’re a leadership and citizenship program,” he said, adding there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the ROTC.

“This is for all students in Gainesville High School no matter what your status is. It’s a high school elective. You get a credit for it toward graduation. We’re just a high school program. That’s all we are.”

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the updates approved March 17 were mostly to accommodate updated Navy language and did not change the terms of the contract.

“Our board, and I agree, is taking the approach of, if we’re going to invest in this and have a program, then we want to try to be the best program we can be,” Dyer said.

Further discussion about the contract is scheduled for the April 14 work session of the school board. Board members also asked Chief Financial Officer Janet Allison to pull the program’s financial impact to the system for the work session.

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