by Ron Gregory
LOGAN – Although Logan State Senator made it a major issue when the Logan County Board of Education could not initially find funds in its new budget to fund Junior ROTC programs at the county’s three high schools, two are set to expire tomorrow.
Senator Richard Ojeda, a Democrat, made much ado when the board looked at eliminating the programs at Chapmanville Regional, Logan and Man high schools. In fact, social media and other public announcements had the senator working with organizers to “pack the house” when the board met to discuss their budgetary concerns.
Numerous current and former ROTC members attended the meeting and many spoke of the advantages the program gave them. Adults, including former Board President Phyllis Adkins, voiced public support for the programs as well.
After the lengthy session, Board President Paul Hardesty, who Adkins and others had branded as opposed to ROTC, volunteered that he would write a personal check to keep the programs going. The next day, Hardesty announced that a major energy company would contribute as well. Then, the Logan County Commission agreed to provide the final funds to run the program for this school year.
Questions about Ojeda’s role in the Logan Junior ROTC have abounded for months. Allegations have included charges that the freshman senator, who was elected in November 2016, worked to create a position for himself once he retired from the military. Some have shone correspondence they say indicates Ojeda was working to create the program – and a job for himself – while on active duty.
In any event, Ojeda basically became the symbol for Junior ROTC in Logan County and headed the program at Chapmanville. When Hardesty made his budget presentation at the earlier board meeting, it was revealed that neither Logan nor Man had accredited ROTC programs.
Regardless of the title given to the three programs, the listed contributions made the three programs financially viable for this school year.
However, problems on the horizon came in focus when some connected with Man High pointed out that there were no instructors for their program.
Hardesty said today, with school in Logan starting tomorrow, “I doubt that there will be those programs at Man or Logan.” Despite nationwide and local advertisements and notices, the board president said there are no qualified applicants for the jobs at either school.
“I just hope everyone understands. It is not a financial problem; we have the money to fund the programs,” said Hardesty. “But if there are no instructors, there cannot be any programs.”
Requirements for the positions are available at the school board office, he said. “We’d be relieved to hear from someone who meets the requirements,” Hardesty said.
Ojeda initially offered to resign from the Chapmanville program during the perceived budget crisis. Statements were made that “if Richie is the problem, he said he would step down.” Questions also arose as to whether Ojeda could serve in his position at CRHS while being a member of the senate. Technically, the legislature sets budgets for school systems statewide and some argued that would be a conflict.
As the school year wound down in the spring, Ojeda submitted his resignation. He pledged that he would “always be available” for former and current cadets. But since, the state senator has announced his candidacy for congress in the third district. “When he got to running a fulltime campaign, it looks like he forgot about the cadets,” one parent said. She asked not to be identified because her son is still a student at LHS.
Despite campaigning as an “open, transparent, accessible and accountable” candidate, Ojeda refuses to acknowledge or respond to Chronicle questions.