GEORGETOWN, Del. – The cafeteria at Sussex Technical High School was packed on Monday night, as parents and students alike crowded in with hopes of getting clarity over the future of the JROTC program after it was announced it may be ending.
“I came out tonight tonight for the chance to show some support, to get some information, some straight answers,” Shaneka Gibbs, a parent, said. Gibbs was one of a handful of parents there, all trying to understand what the future of the school’s Junior ROTC program will be. “We’re definitely concerned for what’s coming next for these kids and what’s going to happen to all the hard work they put in,” Gibbs said.
On Tuesday, a representative from the school told 47 ABC the program would be discontinued because two instructors planned to retire. When parents and current JROTC members heard the news, they say they were more than disappointed. “Devastated was more like it, the children were upset, definitely parents were upset,” Gibbs said. “I was very devastated, I love JROTC, it has built me character, my personality, it made me a better, stronger, leader,” Cadet Sgt. Peterson, a sophomore, said. Because for these students, JROTC isn’t just an extracurricular.
“ This program has basically changed me as a person, coming from Laurel High School to here definitely has changed my personality and how I definitely see things and leadership,” Cadet Second Lieutenant Nixon, a sophomore, said. But Superintendent Stephen Guthrie says it’s not the school’s decision to keep or get rid of the program.
“If there was misinformation, it was that: who owns the program was the source of confusion,” Guthrie said. Since ROTC owns the program, Guthrie says if they national programs doesn’t want to continue at Sussex Tech, his hands are tied. “The problem is we don’t have much choice, if JROTC determines that it’s a nonviable program based on our work-based learning experiences and students aren’t here on a consistent basis, we may not have a choice.” he said. But parents that 47 ABC spoke with say whether the program stays or leaves, they just want honest information.
“We’re trusting you with our kid’s future and we want to be kept in the loop and know what’s going on so we can be proactive and make the best decision for our kids,” Gibbs said. Guthrie says that part of the agreement with ROTC is that they’ll have daily access to students. That, he says, could interfere with the school’s work-based learning program that requires students to spend some time out of the school. But, Guthrie says he and other board members are working with ROTC to find a solution.