Board in step with ROTC-type program

Published 9:48 am Monday, June 23, 2014

A Carter County high school could soon have a first-of-its-kind program for Tennessee.
Members of the Carter County Board of Education voted on Thursday to allow the school system to proceed with the development of an ROTC-type program at Happy Valley High School. The Board first heard the proposal for the program during a workshop session on June 16.
During the workshop, Happy Valley High School Principal Terry Hubbard introduced the Board to Carter County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Scott Whitmire, who she said had worked on developing the new program.
Whitmire, the school resource officer at Happy Valley High School, said the idea for the program came about while he was researching funding for an ROTC – Reserve Officers Training Corps – program for the school. He said that in his search he learned funding was not available for the creation of new ROTC programs, and that inspired him to come up with the idea for a program similar to ROTC.
“What I am looking for is when that young person graduates the program they become a leader in the community,” Whitmire said.
The program proposed would focus on a curriculum of leadership and civic duty while working within a military discipline structure, according to Whitmire.
The program is already garnering interest among students not only at Happy Valley High School but at other schools as well, Whitmire said, adding that he has 43 students who have already signed up saying they are interested.
He said he has also spoken with students from other schools who say they are interested in the program.
To accommodate interest from students at other county high schools, Whitmire said the schedule for the program would be worked around the hours the school system already transports students between schools for other programs.
Whitmire said the ultimate inspiration for this program came from the students he works with on a daily basis at the school.
“I have fallen in love with these kids,” he said, adding that he loves working with the students and wants to help them find direction for their lives. “They want direction. They want someone to help them.”
The program could be implemented with little cost to the county, Whitmire said. Because this would be a program strictly within the Carter County School System, there would be no registration fees or instructor training fees that would normally be associated with an ROTC program.
Whitmire himself volunteered to be the instructor for the program, if approved by the Board and the Sheriff’s Department, as part of his SRO duties. That means the school system would not have to pay an instructor’s salary for the program. Since the date of the workshop, the school system has reached a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sheriff’s Department regarding the SRO program and in that memorandum, the Sheriff’s Department granted permission for Whitmire to instruct the program.
During the Board’s meeting on Thursday, Mickey Taylor, the CTE – Career and Technology Education – director for the school system said he had been in contact with the Tennessee Department of Education regarding the proposed program and that the state is very interested in seeing it.
“This would serve as a pilot program for the state because there is not one like this anywhere,” Taylor said. “They are excited about this because it would be a model for the rest of the state.”
Taylor said he had been working with Sheila Carlton, a CTE consultant through the state, and reported to the board that the state is willing to help Carter County to develop the program. “They are willing to come up here and help us work on the curriculum,” he said.
For the program to start this fall, the school system would have approximately six weeks to develop the curriculum and get everything in place. A special waiver would also be needed from the state because the deadline for submissions of new programs of study for the fall semester has already passed.
Because the start of the new school year is so near, Taylor said he felt it might be difficult to get everything in place for the fall semester, but the program could be ready for implementation in the spring semester.
“It is a sort of strange agreement if you will, with (Whitmire) being an employee of the Sheriff’s Department but being a teacher for us,” Taylor said. “There will be some administrative things to work out.”
Members of the board expressed their support for the program prior to voting on it.
“I think it would be great to be the first county in the state to start this program,” said Board Chairman Ronnie McAmis. “I think it would be a good moral aspect for the kids.”
Member Jerry McMahan also spoke out in favor of the program, relating the positive aspects schools with ROTC programs in the past have seen from the programs. “I think this is a good situation, a good opportunity,” he said. “This would be a good civics-type program.”
When the vote was called for, the Board voted unanimously to approve the creation of the program.

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