Panther Valley School Board wants people to know it is not aiming to eliminate the district's Junior Officer Reserve Training Corps program

The matter surfaced at a public school board meeting Thursday when Superintendent Rosemary Porembo read aloud a letter to the board from Coaldale borough council president Susan Solt.

"It has come to the attention of the Coaldale borough council that the Panther Valley School Board is considering eliminating the JROTC program. We feel that this is a fabulous program, and beneficial to so many children. We are asking the school board to reconsider their decision to eliminate this worthwhile program," Solt wrote.

School Director David Hiles suggested running a display advertisement in the TIMES NEWS to quash the rumor.

"We are not considering at this time eliminating the JROTC program. It is budgeted for next year. The program is going forward. The rumors are unfounded. We don't know where they came from," he said.

Superintendent Rosemary Porembo suggested writing back to Solt to tell her the board is not eliminating the program.

Several veterans attended the July 26 public school board meeting to plead with the board to keep the program. They included Carbon County Director of Veterans Affairs Henry Desrosiers.

On Thursday, School Director Irene Genther who, along with Roy Angst, has twice voted against a new contract for JROTC Senior Instructor Kenneth Markovich said the rumor was started by a particular person.

"It's a rumor mill, and it's started by someone very effective," Genther said.

She said she spoke with Desrosiers after the July 26 meeting.

"He said it's such a great program, it teaches leadership. I agree with him. I said, but my father died in 1969, and he was a veteran of the First World War, and he had a gun salute, but it was given by the American Legion. Don't they do that any more? He said no. I said, so you are really relying on Panther Valley to provide this wonderful service, and he said that's the only (group that performs the service)," Genther said.

She said she told Desrosiers that another veteran who spoke is from Albrightsville, and that Desrosiers himself is originally from Connecticut and is now in Jim Thorpe.

"You're asking us to spend money we need for education, and we are," Genther said she told Desrosiers.

"However, wouldn't it be a good idea if all of the school districts in Carbon County joined together for this wonderful job?" she said.

"We're in a tight bind, as we all know. But there is no reason we are not saying we are eliminating this program. we didn't say that," Genther said.

The U.S. Army sets the instructor's salary, and reimburses the school district for half the cost of the program. In the 2010-2011 school year, Markovich earned $56,576.58. The school district also provides a benefits package.

Kenneth Markovich was to receive $57,654.74 as of January. Assistant Instructor Joseph Jordan's salary from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 is $20,441, with a pay adjustment in January. His contract was approved in July.

Markovich continues to work under the terms of the previous contract. The school board is expected to take up the matter again when it meets at 7 p.m. Aug. 23.

Panther Valley's Army JROTC program is among just 28 in Pennsylvania. The closest program is at Pine Grove High School in Schuylkill County.