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Facing Lackluster Participation, JROTC Leader Seeks PE Credit for WHS Program To Meet Enrollment Provision

By Jesse Wood

June 6, 2014. The WHS Curriculum Committee heard a proposal that, if enacted, would allow the JROTC program to satisfy the PE requirement.

The Watauga High School Curriculum committee met on March 11 and minutes from that meeting are included in the packet for Watauga County Board of Education’s next meeting on Monday, June 9, that was published Thursday afternoon.

“Stressing the parallels” between the curriculums of JROTC and health and physical education at the high school, Lt. Col. Gerald Harper proposed that administrators allow enrollees in JROTC to earn PE credit. Harper is one of two leaders overseeing the JROTC program at WHS.

The JROTC program is currently in its first year at Watauga High School, and only 64 students are enrolled in the program. Harper explained to the committee that “roughly 100” students must be participating in the program within three years of its inception to remain fully funded.

For the first three years of the JROTC program, which was met with some resistance from parents before the school board adopted it last spring, Watauga County Schools will cover the personnel costs of the two JROTC leaders up to $100,000. Thereafter, the military will cover 50 percent of personnel costs and fund uniforms, equipment and other supplies.

Members of the Watauga High School JROTC at a Memorial Day event in Boone. Photo by Jesse Wood
Members of the Watauga High School JROTC at a Memorial Day event in Boone. Photo by Jesse Wood

According to the meeting minutes, “Lt. Col. Harper believes that allowing the PE credit to be earned in JROTC may act as an incentive for enrollment in the program and that there is sufficient overlap in the JROTC and PE curricula to justify the change.”

Committee member Piper Woodring asked Harper if this potential change would cause the program to grow beyond operation capacity, and Harper replied that was unlikely. Harper added that additional personnel could always be added.

Woodring also asked if this proposal would result in students receiving two credits. Ginny Farris, a counselor at WHS, said that while JROTC would satisfy the PE requirement, students would only be awarded credit for JROTC.

Committee member Ryan Habich, a PE teacher and WHS football head coach, expressed three concerns about this potential development, according to the minutes of the meeting:

“First, he asked how this is different from allowing a sport as a PE credit, which is not allowed. Second, he suggested that because PE1 and JROTC share some similar goals does not necessarily justify the replacement of one by the other. Third, Mr. Habich worried that the proposal could result in the elimination of teaching positions in the PE department.”

Committee member Jocelyn Hunter asked Harper if he had any data on how this affected teaching positions at other schools that have adopted the policy. Harper replied that “such data tends to be localized.” While he wasn’t aware of any statistics, he said he would look into the matter.

The presentation by Harper was for information and general discussion only. No action was taken by the curriculum. Committee Chair Michael Owen said that any decision would probably be made by administrators with possible input from the committee and faculty.

The purpose of the WHS Curriculum Committee is to review current curriculum matters and related policies and make recommendations to the Watauga County Board of Education.

Members of the curriculum include one representative from each department in the high school, a representative from the Watauga County Board of Education (Barbara Kinsey, in this case), a parent representative and and other Watauga County Schools administrators.