The Jefferson County Board of Education will consider funding the district’s first middle school cadet academy program Monday night, but some question whether the program would benefit students at the school.
Myers Middle School would pilot the cadet academy program next year and after review could eventually become an official magnet program, according to the proposal. The school would also act as preparatory program for students who want to participate in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program in high school.
But members of the group Louisville Chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation—or LFOR—say data JCPS is using to support the program, a distrcit cost of $144,500, is not a strong enough reason alone to move forward with the concept.
JCPS surprised many people when they introduced the new school concepts at Frost, Myers, Shawnee, Valley and The Phoenix School. Some were concerned that there was little involvement from stakeholders from the beginning, but JCPS officials contend that the ideas were based off the schools’ needs. JCPS halted plans at Shawnee after parents wanted to first find a replacement for former principal Keith Look who took a leave of absence this year.
When the ideas were released, JCPS reported how the various school concepts would benefit students at each of the schools.
For Myers, officials presented a report that showed proficiency rates, and discipline and attendance data are slightly better among JROTC students than their peers. But LFOR has challenged these numbers.
The group reached out to University of Louisville associate professor Jason Gaineous who analyzed the JCPS data himself. He addressed the school board last month and said the numbers were never properly analyzed.
“The report that I read frankly doesn’t stand on any valid ground,” he says. “If you’re making your decision based on that this program is going to increase achievement you have no evidence to suggest that that’s the case. If it’s for some other reason that’s okay.”
Board chair Diane Porter said Superintendent Donna Hargens would consider his comments. In a response to WFPL’s request for follow up, officials wrote in an email : “There are a variety of factors that have gone into the decision to make a pilot program there, not solely data provided by the professor.”
Myers Middle School is in David Jones Jr.’s district. He says he plans to make his decision after hearing from JCPS staff at Monday night’s board meeting.
“I have reviewed the input from community groups, and am grateful for the thought and care that interested citizens have shared,” he writes.
LFOR member Chris Harmer says members plan to attend that board meeting and speak again in opposition. Harmer says he’s also concerned with offering a military-style program to middle school students. This would be the school district’s first JROTC program at the middle school level.
“We think that this is way too early to be introducing military-style, whatever you want to call it training,” Harmer says.
There are some supporters of the cadet program at Myers. During the public comment period one individual emailed JCPS to say that the academy would help his two children that attend there with obesity, low self esteem, and confidence.
The board is expected to vote on two proposals that involve four schools that serve many struggling students. To see the proposals, click here. Also read this related story on Frost Middle School (JCPS Board Member: Frost Middle School’s Proximity to Power Plant is Problematic).
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