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School system considering pay reductions for junior ROTC instructors

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 7:35 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 9, 2013 12:01 AM
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As one way to deal with staggering budget cuts from state and federal programs, the Richmond County School System is considering shortening the employment contracts of its 20 junior ROTC instructors beginning next year.

The Richmond County School System is considering shortening the employment contracts of its 20 junior ROTC instructors beginning next year.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
The Richmond County School System is considering shortening the employment contracts of its 20 junior ROTC instructors beginning next year.

Tracey McManus
Twitter: @aug_mcmanus
E-mail | 706-823-3424

Chief Human Resources Officer Norman Hill sent a memo to high school principals Friday stating that instructors will drop from 12-month to 11-month contracts for the 2013-14 year and to 10 months in 2014-15.

After a discussion in a superintendent’s cabinet meeting Wednesday, however, Hill said administrators are reconsidering the change and have held off on the reduction for now.

“What we’re going to do is evaluate that program across all of the branches of the military and then make the best decision,” Hill said Wednesday. He said more thought is being given toward junior ROTC contract cuts after “one of the other branches of the military sent us some additional communication,” although he could not say which branch or the nature of the information.

Each military branch reimburses the system roughly 50 percent of the salaries for the instructors, who are all retired service members. Anita Faglier, the director of finance and accounting, said the district has two Air Force, eight Army, five Marine and five Navy instructors.

Because of the federal sequestration, the Air Force recently said it would limit its reimbursement for school systems to only 10 months, the minimum contract length required for junior ROTC instructors by law.

Faglier said Richmond County junior ROTC instructor pay ranges from $3,414 to $7,160 a month, depending on the employee’s rank and time with the system.

Although the reimbursement change would affect only Air Force personnel, the reduction announced Friday would be applied to the 18 instructors under the other military branches also.

“You’re taking food off my table; you’re taking money out of my pocket; you’re taking away from things I could do with my family,” said Army junior ROTC instructor Noel Cartagena, who has worked at the Academy of Richmond County for 13 years after 30 years in the Army. “I think about the fellow instructors below me. I know folks who have been in the program a long, long time, and this is like stealing.”

Cartagena said junior ROTC instructors spend dozens of hours every year working after school, on weekends and through the summer to help with fundraisers, competition trips and training programs.

This cut could keep many from spending those extra hours bettering the programs and investing in students off the clock.

“Taking a month’s pay or two months’ pay out of someone’s salary is traumatic,” Cartagena said.

Richmond County officials are in discussions for the 2013-14 budget and will present a proposed budget to the board of education later in the summer. Until then, administrators are deliberating how to deal with proposed cuts from the state, which have topped $113 million over the past 10 years.

Cross Creek High School Navy junior ROTC instructor Johnathan Shaw said he realizes the district is facing hard times but believes human capital is one of the most valuable resources.

Shaw said the loss of support and finances would be enough to make him and others look for employment in other districts.

In summer, he and Cross Creek’s three other instructors help with three major cadet camps, instructor training, locker preparation and clerical work, which they would have to do for free with the contract reduction.

“I love the kids at Cross Creek, but I can only do so much with limited support,” he said.

Cross Creek is also preparing to receive almost $2 million to renovate a new classroom wing, a rifle range, storage space and a second gym for its expanding Academy of Military Science magnet program, which launched in 2011. The goal is to increase the program’s current 321 cadet enrollment over the next few years by opening the application process to students outside Cross Creek’s attendance zone.

Shaw said he fears the impact on the promising program if the cuts are enacted.

“I’m not doubting the school board has to make difficult decisions, but they have to evaluate how they go about it,” he said. “I’m not going to be in a scenario where I’m not appreciated.”

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fedex227 05/08/13 - 09:31 pm
Maybe I'm reading this article wrong ...

but the high end salary for a JROTC instructor, who according to Mr. Cartagena, "spend(s) dozens of hours every year working after school, on weekends and through the summer to help with fundraisers, competition trips and training programs," is about $86,000 a year. And that cutting it from a 12-month salary to an 11-month salary would result in "taking food off my table." Please tell me I'm wrong.

GiantsAllDay 05/09/13 - 12:21 am
FedEx227: Don't forget this

FedEx227: Don't forget this guy is a retired officer after 30 years of service. With 30 years he should have made colonel easy. He is getting 75% colonel pay as retirement. Add that to the 86K salary and we're talking somewhere around 150k/year. Taking food off his table? This guy has some huge brass ones for even making those statements to this newspaper.

mrscsh 05/09/13 - 02:08 am
CSM Cartagena

was not an officer in the military.... Command SERGEANT Major. So he is not at the high end of the salary range. Maybe it wouldn't exactly be taking food off his table, but how many of us can say that we would be happy about losing a months wages? Especially thirteen years into a job?

scoobynews 05/09/13 - 05:18 am
As a teacher of academics I

As a teacher of academics I have seen my pay decrease due to higher insurance cost and tax rates. I have also not had a pay increase in over 6 years even though I have a specialist degree (which I am still payingboff). I have NO sympathy. I am not getting retirement and an extra check so he has no clue what "food off my table" really is!

avidreader 05/09/13 - 05:42 am
I Guess I'm Not In Tune!

I always thought that ROTC instructors only received a public salary that kept them at their pre-retirement income. If they're making 60-75% retirement for thirty years of service plus a full teacher's salary, this scenario does seem a bit too much, even with all the extra work they do. Most of the teachers I know also put in a lot of extra hours to enhance the lives of students.

dichotomy 05/09/13 - 07:22 am
Teachers are taking salary

Teachers are taking salary cuts via furloughs. Federal employees are taking salary cuts via furloughs. I cannot see any reason why the JROTC instructors would be exempt from some kind of cuts as long as they are kept somewhat proportional to the cuts others who are funded by the same salary sources are being forced to take. I'm not saying that they should take a 2 month hit, but something proportional to the cuts their colleagues are having to eat should be expected.

Glendive 05/09/13 - 09:22 am

I have two children who each have completed 4 years in a JROTC program in Richmond County and they are better for it. I also believe many do not fully know the facts relating to this issue. The criticism of CSM Cartagena is totaly without merit. If he does half of what my kids JROTC instructors did, he should be thanked for what he does.

From the Chronicle's web site on RCBOE salaries, CSM Cartagena earns $65,501.21 of which half is paid by the Army. That means the 'taxpayers' of Richmond County pay just under $33K for this man to work 10-12 hour days during the school week, give up around half of his weekends, and spend many nights of his personal time with cadets conducting community service, color guard ceremonies, school support events, travel to and compete in drill, marksmanship, athletic and academic competitions, etc..

He has been subjected to furlough days the same as everyone else and has had his salary go down the same as other teachers. During the summer, he works a full day or more providing much needed support to his school. He also spends time at camps infuencing the lives of cadets where he is with them 24 hours per a day teaching them life skills that will enable them to succeed in a very challenging world. As the parent of two of these cadets, I think the price is worth it.

A JROTC instructor is not an 8 hour day, 5-day per week employee as many seem to believe. These guys often work between 50-70 hours per week shaping the leaders of tomorrow. They spend countless hours of their personal time with our kids. And retirment salaries ARE deducted from their overall annual salaries.

Let's appreciate what they do.

fedex227 05/09/13 - 11:14 pm
Glendive ...

I don't believe anyone who has posted is questioning the commitment CSM Cartagena has to improving the lives of students in Richmond County. As a retired military member myself I hold CSM Cartagena's willingness to proceed on a post-military path that lets him have a positive impact on the lives of the youth in society in high regard. You go Sergeant Major.

In these times of cutbacks, where teachers earing half the income of JROTC instructors are furloughed; where federal employees have not seen salary increases in the last three years; where government jobs are being cut by the hundreds of thousands, etc, sacrifices are being made. It's just a little bit silly for CSM Cartagena to make the statement that "you're taking food off my table" if you reduce my salary from 65,501 as you stated to let’s say 60,045 (12 month salary vice 11 month salary). Maybe I'm wrong but that's just my opinion.

Glendive 05/10/13 - 08:35 am
Keep it in perspective

Am I the only parent of a (former) cadet that appreciates what the JROTC program has done for my children and is willing to support their cause? Where is the support?

We focus on the $65K that Cartagena makes but not the fact that our school district only pays half of this (less than $33K a year) for his service. We fail to recognize that this is at the low end of teacher pay. If one would take the time to review the teacher pay posted on the Chronicle web page,

they would see that JROTC instructors (even the highest paid ones) receive comparable or less pay from the school district than many (if not most) teachers in our district (remember, the district gets 1/2 of the total pay reimbursed). Some of the pay we provide our school board staff is staggering yet there is not complaint. We have a Kindergarten teacher in Richmond County making $66K. This means that Richmond County pays over twice as much for this 10 month employee as it does for at 12 month JROTC instructor.
The JROTC instructors also suffer furloughs and ALL other such cuts imposed by the school district on its employees. Each of them coach various teams such as marksmanship, athletics, raiders, drill, academics, etc. without receiving a coaching stipend. In my experience, many have used their own money to support their respective teams since our school district does not provide any funding support for their various competitive teams. Does anyone know that Hephzibah, Westside and Cross Creek have competed in the national championships in several of these areas in recent years (raiders, rifle, orienteering)? The school district did not pay for this and their respective military service did not either. And now we ask them to make additional "sacrifices". Every 'savings' has a cost. Has our school board evaluated the impact their decision would have on the schools and cadets when our instructors are not around in the summer? Have we truly evaluated the return on our investment?

Additionally, we are quick to tell them to 'suck it up.' We have a comment from a teacher that still has to pay off a specialist degree. Enlisted instructors had to pay for their own degrees as well and did not have a summer off to work on it. They had to take more time away from their personal lives to earn their degrees going to night school. Yet I would bet that this teacher receives more pay from Richmond County that our instructors do. I bet she makes much more than $33K a year.

We are quick to tell others to make sacrifices without knowing all that it involves. How many of you who have “NO sympathy”, or think that these guys are paid too much would be willing to take a 16% pay cut and yet do the exact same job? Figure out how this would affect your life. Would you be willing to do the same amount of effort for 16% less? That is what we are asking these guys to do?

We all need to focus on the return on the investment. Is Richmond County getting a good return on its $33K for a 12 month employee? For JROTC instructors, I say yes. These guys do a lot and they are a bargain for our school district.

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