by Ron Gregory
LOGAN — In an emotional hour-long presentation, members of the Logan County Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) defended their programs from cuts suggested by the Logan County Board of Education.
About 100 people turned out at the vocational school board meeting room for the scheduled 6 p.m. meeting. The session was called to order by Board President Paul Hardesty with members Dr. Pat Joe White, Debbie Mendez, Dr. Ed White and Jeremy Farley in attendance. Superintendent Patricia Lucas was present as well.
Hardesty began the meeting by leaving his chair as president to present a lengthy “JROTC: The Genesis of the Program and the Facts” power-point presentation.
This was followed by often-tearful statements from JROTC and NDCC members from Chapmanville Regional, Logan and Man high schools. The students gave examples of improvements in their lives they said were due to JROTC membership.
As of Friday morning, Hardesty announced he had secured a $50,000 donation from Alpha Natural Resources to extend the CRHS program through the 2017-18 school year. Hardesty said he could do nothing to retain the NDCC programs at Man and Logan because the “Army has written us a letter and said they require us to have two instructors at each school. Right now, we have one at each. Having to cut 70 personnel positions because of budgetary concerns, we cannot in good faith hire two more people to satisfy the military requirement.”
Hardesty complained at the outset and in his closing remarks about dialogue on social media that he said was “false and misleading.” Former BOE member Phyllis Adkins was the only speaker who appeared to deviate from courteous presentations by all concerned. Adkins declared, “There is too much politics in the Logan County school system.” She maintained, “I was removed from being President of the Board because I wouldn’t vote for (former Superintendent) Phyllis Doty and her cronies.”
Adkins went on to personally attack Hardesty, saying she had been told “by someone in your Hardesty campaign camp” that “the first thing you would do (if elected to the board) would be cut out this ROTC program.”
In the end, Hardesty said he would “personally” donate $10,000 to keep the program alive at CRHS as others in the audience pointed to their wallets and said they would donate as well. Friday, however, Hardesty said the $50,000 from Alpha would “provide our portion of the program at Chapmanville.”
The “portion” had been another matter Hardesty addressed in his opening remarks. He said school officials had conspired to keep the public from knowing the truth about the ROTC programs. “Nothing is the fault of these kids,” he said, pointing to uniformed members of the ROTC standing in the room.
But, Hardesty said, “the public” had been informed the federal government was picking up half of the cost of the program. The President went on to provide documentation that the program had cost $650,000 since it was approved in 2013. Of that, the federal government had reimbursed the county $36,569. “That doesn’t sound like 50 percent to me,” he said.
Throughout his presentation, a copy of which he provided to all media outlets, Hardesty emphasized that members of School Board were never apparently told of any change from the “50-50 formula.” He added, “I’m confident board members thought they were being reimbursed 50 percent because nobody told them any different.” But Hardesty produced letters and documents from the Army making it clear they were not reimbursing the county for the program, except for a small portion at CRHS.
“Board members needed to know this; the public needed to know this; the public was misinformed,” he said. During the presentation, Hardesty continuously pointed out that downturns in coal and related industries have cost the school system. He said if the board continued spending at its current rate, it would be broke in two years.
All speakers appeared to recognize the budgetary situation, but argued that the ROTC is so beneficial that it needed to be saved. One speaker said, “The ROTC builds character and develops future good citizens. Football, basketball and baseball do not do that.”
Hardesty concluded, “Those kids touched my heart with their stories. I just can’t see the program shut down after hearing from them. We’ll cross the bridge next year and see if there is a way to continue funding it then. For now, Chapmanville ROTC is saved”