An anxious group of some 45 parents, students and others crowded into the School District 509-J board room to hear an update on the status of the JROTC program at Madras High School, July 31.
"I'm happy to report that we have a new applicant, who is very viable, and had a successful interview," announced new Superintendent Ken Parshall.
However, Parshall noted, "The applicant must now undergo an extensive vetting process with the military, which can take four to six months. We have written to the military to ask if they could expedite the process."
He credited new Human Resources Director Randy Bryant, who he said had spent a lot of time on the phone with the candidate and the military in the past two weeks since the last board meeting.
The 509-J Board had voted to discontinue the JROTC program on June 26, because of advice from administrators that there weren't enough students, and because of the lack of a qualified senior instructor. An instructor had been found, but backed out at the last minute. At the July 17 meeting, a large group of parents, students and community members voiced their disapproval, and 43 testified about the benefits of the program.
Parshall said administrators were really encouraged following the candidate's interview, and an intent to hire letter had been sent to the JROTC office. He also came with very good recommendations from his two commanding officers. Parshall said the person is from the Northwest region, visited Madras one week ago, and liked the community.
"Now if he completes the military's background checking process, we hope we could have him in place by Aug. 29, with the other teachers. Sgt. (Kyle) Yeager has very generously committed to helping during the transition, and I'd like to say publically how much we appreciate that," Parshall said.
In what appears to be a miscommunication problem, Yeager's position as assistant JROTC instructor was eliminated without his knowledge, when the board voted earlier to discontinue the program. And for that reason, he said he no longer wanted to work for the district. Board member Tom Norton publically apologized to Yeager at the last board meeting.
But parents at the meeting were still nervous. "So, you're saying we are keeping JROTC?" one asked.
"If we can get through this process, yes," Parshall responded.
Board member Jamie Hurd said, "To clarify; we're waiting to hear back from the military on if we can expedite the process?" Parshall said yes, that was the case.
Board Chairman Laurie Danzuka closed the discussion saying, "From this room full of people, we can tell the importance of continuing with this program."
During a time for citizen's comments, retired U.S. Army Col. Donna Hubbard, of Bend, told the board, "I'm glad to hear you are making good progress. JROTC is a real gift for your community. If you haven't been in the military, you can't appreciate the importance of teaching at the high school level."
When a parent asked if Sgt. Yeager would be able to teach the JROTC class until the new senior instructor arrived, Parshall deflected all further questions until after the board meeting.
But parents were still skeptical. Kathy Dominguez stepped to the speaker's podium and asked, "Will the JROTC instructor be on the agenda at the next meeting on Aug. 14?"
Parshall said, "Yes," but noted, personnel information is confidential, due to the process, and he couldn't say much more until a person is hired.
Bridges principal resigns
Technical High School Principal Caron Smith. Parshall said she had accepted a job at a community charter school in Alaska. Her husband, Darryl Smith, also resigned at the end of the school year to accept an administrative position in Alaska.
The board approved the hiring of Brian Crook as an assistant principal at Madras High School, and to oversee Bridges Career and Technical High School. Crook has been a middle school principal in Bend.
"He will be helping at both schools, and will be the lead person at Bridges. He will also be going back and forth to the Roots (alternative education) program in Warm Springs," Parshall said.
Julia Fall was hired to teach math at the middle school, and Michelle Moran-Crook was hired as a districtwide teaching support specialist, and teacher of the Talented and Gifted program.
Following the short half-hour long meeting, Parshall and board members mingled with those attending. Parents were smiling, and some thanked Parshall and shook his hand.