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Roundtable discussion clears air on Jr. ROTC

March 5, 2014

From left, foreground Coventry School Committee member Dave Florio, Colonel Steven Buteau, Representative Lisa Tomasso, state senator Lou Raptakis, state representative Mike Chippendale, ROTC parents Brenda Beauchaine and Joe Stalaboin, Coventry High School principal Mike Hobin discuss Coventry's JROTC program. Kendra Leigh Miller. Coventry Courier.

COVENTRY — In a roundtable discussion, a handful of local legislators, school officials, parents and ROTC instructor Colonel Steven Buteau spend a good part of Friday afternoon working out a possible solution to keep the JROTC program at Coventry High School operating.

The issue; getting the necessary number of students (100) to enroll in the ROTC program and funding it before it is disbanded by the Air Force.

Buteau and his colleague got a letter in October 2012 from the Air Force explaining that Coventry’s unit, RI-081, would be deactivated if it did not maintain enrollment the following year.

According to Title 10, U.S. Code Section 2031, the program must have a minimum of 100 people or ten percent of the school population, whichever is less.
The program has not been able to maintain minimum enrollment since the 2005 school year, when it had 120 cadets. When school began session last September it was only able to get 77 cadets.

Coventry School Superintendent Mike Almeida received a letter in November from JROTC Director Colonel Cameron Gilbert explaining the program would be deactivated on June 30 of this year.

Since then the program has varied in size and has declined to its current 77 members.

Upon hearing this news, over the past three weeks, parents and other program supports have been vocal at various meetings about how important it is not only for the school district but for the community, to keep the 43 year-old program alive.

The total budget for the program per year is $230,000. This is split between the Air Force ( $73,000) and the amount allocated in the school’s budget ($157,000)

According to the numbers presented Friday by Buteau, this includes teachers’ salaries and everything necessary for a cadet.

According to Coventry School Principal Mike Hobin, what complicated a portion of the discussion at last week’s school committee meeting was that as this budget was set, the $157,000 had already been reallocated because it was anticipated the program was done.

Upon learning this, the pleas from parents were not only about saving the program but asking the school committee to find the funds again.

Some members of the local delegation attended that committee meeting and told the crowd they would reach out to local delegates in Washington and anyone at the Rhode Island Department of Education for guidance and immediate help.

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Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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