JROTC gets the ‘boot’ at Fremont

JROTC gets the 'boot' at Fremont

About Face -- JROTC used to attract more that 100 students. Enrollment was only 52 this year before it was cut.

After 90 years of training students in citizenship, responsibility and leadership, the school’s JROTC program is no more.

The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program was cut in an effort to reduce what was once estimated to be a $700,000 deficit at Fremont High School, but which now may be closer to $479,000. [See related story on Page 1.]

Principal Daniel Hurst said that he had to find ways to reduce the deficit, including cutting a teacher that he felt would impact the fewest number of students. JROTC enrolled only 52 students this year, Hurst said.

Even though the United States Army covers about half of the cost of JROTC, the Oakland Unified School District official in charge of the program said that subsidy sometimes is still not enough.

“All high schools must operate with a balanced budget,” said Major James Yeary, director of JROTC instruction for the Oakland Unified School District.

Some students who found out their JROTC classes had been eliminated one day before receiving a new class to replace JROTC were unhappy.

“JROTC has helped us develop good leadership skills and was an easy A,” said senior Jenny Saechao.
However, some school officials saw a bigger picture.

“It’s not what students prefer, it’s what we think they need,” said Hurst.

The program already had been at jeopardy because it had not been enrolling the minimum of 100 students that a contract with the Army requires, according to Yeary.

“Unfortunately, Fremont High School has not been able to maintain the minimums for over four years,” said Yeary.
The program also had been struggling to find a suitable teacher after Sgt. Major Paul Jones retired June 30. Jones had been teaching at Fremont for seven years.

Leon Castillo, who had 24 years of experience in the military, was scheduled to be the permanent teacher. However, Castillo was technically never hired at Fremont to run the program.

Sgt. Cary Williams was the temporary replacement for Castillo.

Hurst said that Williams was the long-term substitute, but then he was given a temporary contract.

Yet days after receiving his temporary contract, Williams received a phone call from Hurst explaining that the program had been cut.