The Franklin Parish School Board, Army JROTC cadets, parents and its instructor continue to grabble with ideas on how to increase membership numbers and gain an additional instructor before their program is disestablished.
The group engaged in a lengthy discussion at the School Board’s agenda meeting Monday night.
Franklin Parish High School JROTC program was put on probation May 16 due to low enrollment and having only one instructor. If minimum requirements are not met by the second semester, the Army will recommend ending the program, said Master Sgt. Emma Jones Blackshire, senior Army instructor for Franklin Parish High School’s JROTC program.
Requirements for a JROTC program are a minimum of 100 cadets or 10 percent of school enrollment and two instructors, according to Army regulations.
Currently, 45 cadets are enrolled in JROTC at Franklin Parish High School up from 39 cadets recorded at the end of May, Blackshire said.
“Our priority is enrollment,” Blackshire said. “We have to significantly increase our numbers.”
The lack of knowledge about JROTC from the overall student population was a major setback to the program, Blackshire said.
“This is not a club,” Blackshire said. “A student can get credit for going through this program.”
To increase enrollment, Blackshire recommended following other regional schools in requiring a percentage of freshman to take JROTC.
“As of Aug. 26, according to JCampus, there are 256 freshmen enrolled (at Franklin Parish High School), if 25 percent of those freshman were enrolled in JROTC that would be a total of 64 cadets,” Blackshire said. “The 10th through 12th graders in JROTC would make up the shortfall. Based on the current school enrollment of 819, the program should have 82 cadets.”
JCampus is a teacher, student and parent management information system containing pertinent information concerning attendance, grades and school events.
Another major program setback is the lack of an additional instructor, Blackshire said. Last year, JROTC had a substitute instructor.
“I was told by the administrator we were not going to have a sub,” Blackshire said. “We are contractually obligated to meet the minimum standards of the program. This comes from the Department of the Army.”
In an interview Tuesday with The Franklin Sun, Franklin Parish High School Principal Brian Gunter said he had talked to Assistant Superintendent Wiley McClary. Gunter said McClary assured him Superintendent Lanny Johnson was actively searching for a qualified candidate.
Franklin Parish JROTC numbers have been in a five-year decline even with a previous two-man staff, a point brought up by Johnson.
“I don’t know the reason it has gone down the last five years, but we all want a JROTC program,” Johnson said. “We want to save this program.”
Johnson said once a qualified instructor is found he or she will be hired.
“We have been looking for an instructor,” Johnson said. “We are not going to put a sub over there that is not qualified. From a superintendent’s point of view, we would hire a qualified instructor on the spot.”
More opportunities will be offered to the cadets if an additional instructor is hired, Blackshire said. Opportunities such as marksmanship training, Raider Challenge, off-campus training and STEM Camp could be offered to cadets.
“My intent is to have a rifle team if I can get help by the second semester,” Blackshire said. “Marksmanship could be the key to increased enrollment. I have 15 new air rifles in boxes, but I can’t open them because of safety issues from having only one instructor.”
On another front, student enrollment is up at Franklin Parish High School, Baskin and Gilbert schools but down at Winnsboro Elementary, Crowville and Fort Necessity schools, Johnson said.
“Our enrollment is still less than it was last year,” Johnsons said. “Our true enrollment count will be Oct. 1 to show the state. If we can get back even or show an increase we will be ok. But, if we keep decreasing students at some point we will have to decrease teachers. You can’t function if you don’t have money from the state.”
Eighty-five percent of Franklin Parish School System’s budget is from personnel, Johnson said.
The Franklin Parish School system along with other Louisiana school systems rely on funds from the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP).
Under MFP, Louisiana Department of Education annually adopts a formula heavily based on student enrollment to allocate funding for education to school districts. Funding through this program is provided to school districts as a block grant.
In other matters, two parents brought separate complaints before the School Board. One complaint involved what the parent called inappropriate disciplinary actions against her child while the other parent informed the School Board her kindergarten-aged child was put on the wrong bus resulting in her child being dropped off at her residence unattended. The parent said a neighbor saw the child and took care of him until a relative could get him. The child was supposed to be dropped off at a daycare on a different bus.