The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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May 1, 2014

Vets irate Shikellamy may eliminate JROTC

Program only one in Valley districts

SUNBURY — A former Shikellamy board member said Wednesday that if directors tonight discuss the elimination of the district’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, it would be a “sin.”

Former director Preston Ross and former high school Principal Terry Roden, both military veterans, said they were stunned to hear Shikellamy is considering cutting the $140,000 program because of budgetary reasons.

“What a loss for this community if that happens,” said Ross, who served from 1968-1970 in the U.S. Navy and Seabees, including 18 months in Vietnam.

“To do away with that program would be a slap in the face to every veteran and taxpayer in this Valley, a sin. Why would you even think about doing such a thing? This program builds character and as a veteran I support everything about JROTC.”

Roden agreed.

“Why would you even consider cutting a program that is so valuable to the community?” asked Roden, an Army veteran who taught the JROTC program from 1995 to 1998. “It would be a real shame.”

Word began to spread Wednesday that directors tonight will discuss ending the program as a cost-savings measure. Shikellamy faces a $1.2 million budget deficit in its $46.1 million 2014-15 spending plan.

The JROTC program at Shikellamy, with 92 cadets, is the only one in Valley school districts.

Shikellamy Superintendent Pat Kelley said the move is only being discussed and that nothing is set in stone.

“No one is saying it is not a good program,” Kelley said. “It’s a good program.”

Kelley said it is a budget consideration and the program costs the district about $140,000 a year.

Shikellamy and the U.S. Army split the instructor salaries for the program.

Lt. Col. Joseph Walsh, senior Army instructor for the JROTC program, declined comment until after the meeting, but that didn’t stop former students and parents from speaking out.

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