UPDATE: Private donation saves Junior ROTC programs in Logan County

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UPDATE 3/31/17 @ 2:55 p.m.
LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. (WV MetroNews) -- Students who participate in the Junior ROTC and Junior National Defense Corps programs at all three Logan County high schools will be able to continue to participate in the coming year.

A week after Logan County School Board President Paul Hardesty announced funding had been found for the JR ROTC program at Chapmanville; money for the other two schools has also been secured.

“I am fully convinced with all the private donations we have secured and with the help of the Logan County Commission and Delegate Phillips and Delegate Marcum who have helped to bring some people to the table,” Hardesty said. “We have secured funding to keep Logan, Man, and Chapmanville open for another year.”

Private donors ponied up close to $225,000 to fund the programs.

None of the private companies wanted to be recognized for their contribution at this point.

A week ago, Alpha Natural Resources put funding into the Chapmanville Jr. ROTC which faced a critical deadline. Hardesty, speaking on MetroNews Talkline Friday, said the company endured some unfair criticism for that donation.

“It’s no secret they emerged from bankruptcy, and they have tax implications and bankruptcy provisions to address those in due time,” Hardesty said. “These people did this out of the goodness of their heart. They took operational dollars and money that could have been used for a change out for a piece of equipment and said, ‘Look we want to help. We’re in this community, we’re part of this community.'”

The funding started lining up when Hardesty sat down and started going through his phone contact list. He was moved by the stories he heard from students who participate in the programs all all three schools.

However, the county coffers to fund them are dry in a year when 70 school employees had to be terminated to make ends meet on next year’s budget.

“A boy at Logan named Nicholas has endured more than any boy his age should have to endure, he touched my heart. Then Samantha told me she got off drugs and now is on the honor roll because the program meant that much to her. It gave her hope and gave her structure,” said Hardesty of the students who spoke at the Logan County School Board meeting. “These kids came to our meeting and were role model citizens. They were very respectful in a bad situation.”

The funding Hardesty and several others secured, however, isn’t permanent. It’s a one year extension.

“I want to tell all of these people tied to these programs, we have given you a 365 day head start,” Hardesty said. “There’s going to have to be ways found to fund these programs going forward.”

UPDATE 3/24/17 @ 11:55 p.m.
LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Less than 24 hours after members of junior cadet programs at the three high schools in Logan County were told to brace to be cut, one of the programs is safe, at least for now.

School Board President Paul Hardesty says the board secured a $50,000 donation Friday from Alpha Natural Resources, to support the Junior ROTC program at Chapmanville Regional High School. Hardesty says the contribution came on the final day the school board had to inform the U.S. Army they planned on keeping the program intact.

"I can tell you, today, the JROTC program is safe for next year," Hardesty said. "I could not be happier."

Hardesty says the contribution will be matched with federal dollars from the U.S. Army. The $100,000 in funds will pay for the two instructors the Army requires per program and additional costs to allow the JROTC to survive the 2017-18 school year.

At a board meeting, Thursday, Hardesty announced that the school system is over-budget by 87 positions due to the massive overspending of previous boards. Without the contribution, Hardesty says, the current school board would not have been able to afford maintaining the program. He says, if the school system had been forced to cut the program, they would have not been able to reestablish a true JROTC program in the future.

"We struggle in this area, we're cutting everything, but we have good people," Hardesty said. "Today, for a small moment, we're able to put the spring back in the kids' step."

"To hear the good news over the intercom, you could hear screams of cheer and celebration all across the school," Chapmanville junior cadet Kiara Eldridge said. "[Our] Sergeant was happy ... he got up and danced."

But Eldridge admits the celebration is bittersweet. Her peers in the National Defense Cadet Corps programs at Logan High School and Man High School are still likely to be cut, according to Hardesty.

Unlike the JROTC program, the NDCC programs are not federally matched. Therefore, all funding has to come from taxpayer dollars.

Hardesty says the NDCC programs, each of which currently have just one instructor, would each need to add a second instructor to continue operating. He says, considering the board has already informed 70 teachers and other staff members their jobs will likely be cut before next year, it will be nearly impossible to justify spending more than ever on a non-mandated course.

"I hate it for the kids at Logan and Man," Hardesty said. "But those programs, their fates is pretty much sealed."

Still, junior cadets across all three schools say they are already working to secure donations from private businesses in Logan County. Many have also volunteered to pay a fee per cadet to cover costs. Hardesty says he plans on looking to see whether such a payment plan would be permitted.

Hardesty says, if the NDCC programs are cut, the school board is able to reapply to reestablish the programs. He says the budget must be balanced first though.

As for teachers and other staff members in line to see their positions cut, Hardesty says the board is working with the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority to provide alternate options for employment.

Hardesty says South Central Regional Jail is willing to consider those school employees for 40 positions. He says the school and jail systems will work together to hold a job fair for school employees.

ORIGINAL STORY 3/23/17 @ 11:55 p.m.
LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Junior cadets, trained to face adversity, are now getting real-life training in Logan County, as they face the adversity of trying to save their program.

Budget struggles have left Logan County's Junior ROTC and National Defense Cadet Corps as top options that could be cut.

A meeting Thursday marked the first chance for students and parents involved in the programs to tell the school board why they believe the programs need to stay.

Dozens of the county's 400 junior cadets spoke at the meeting.

Tears were shed as several students explained the positive impact these groups have had on their lives. Some even said they were in dire straights before joining a program that turned their lives around.

"My stepfather started to abuse my mother," Logan High School NDCC member Nikolas Alves said. "I lost the motivation to keep my grades up...all these cadets you see, they helped me through this, they made me the man I am today."

"I started my freshman year addicted to drugs," Logan High School NDCC member Samantha Mullins said. "If it was not for my Logan High ROTC Logan cadets, I would not be here today, I would've already dropped out...my attendance rose tremendously, so did my grades."

School Board President Paul Hardesty says the programs are indeed fantastic for teaching citizenship and leadership. He says, in a perfect world, they would not be discussing cuts.

But, in reality, he says the board is in a tough spot: over budget by 90 positions because of the massive overspending of previous administrations.

He also said mismanagement of the JROTC program meant federal funding, expected to help foot the bill, has not entirely been there.

"Logan County Schools has not gotten one dollar from the government," Hardesty said. "You, the taxpayer, are footing the whole ticket...this is why this school system's in the shape it is today...it's not these kids' fault."

But, Hardesty says, without major cuts, the projected budget for next school year will be "zero."

While parents and students understand the predicament the school board is in, they still say they'd like to see the cuts come from anywhere else.

"We're not asking you to not do cuts, it has to happen," Tonya Williamson, a mother of a Chapmanville Regional High School ROTC member, said. "What we are asking you to do is not to make cuts that affect productive children."

The board says they are working on possible solutions to the school budget crisis that do not involve cutting the programs.

However, school officials say, even if the programs are cut, the school system would still need to cut 70 staff positions to break back to even.

Hardesty says he plans on looking into seeing if parents would be able to pay the costs of an JROTC/NDCC membership. He says, if that option is available, he will offer $10,000 personally to help fund the programs for students.

The board expects to vote on the ROTC issue on April 6.

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