Despite the pleas of a number of veterans, including Carbon County Director of Veterans Affairs Henry Desrosiers, the future of Panther Valley School District's Junior Officer Reserve Training Corps is up in the air after two school directors on Thursday shot down the board's second attempt to settle a contract for the program's leader.
School directors Irene Genther and Roy "Mickey" Angst again voted against the contract. The four other board members who attended the meeting Dave Hiles, Anthony DeMarco, Joseph Zabroski and Bill Hunsicker voted in favor of the pact with JROTC Senior Army Instructor Kenneth Markovich.
School directors Koreen Nalesnik, Michelle Markovich and board president Jeff Markovich were absent.
Although the majority of school directors who attended the meeting voted in favor, the measure requires a full board majority, five people, to pass.
Efforts to reach Markovich early Friday were unsuccessful.
The matter may surface again when the board meets on Aug. 23.
The contract for Assistant Instructor Sgt. Joseph Jordan passed, with Angst casting the sole no vote.
Both Angst and Genther spoke at the beginning of the public meeting.
Angst described himself as a decorated World War II veteran, and said he is a "strong supporter" of the program, but would vote against the contracts for Markovich and Jordan.
"They refused to let me read the contract," he said.
He also said the school district should not be giving raises to others when the teachers' contract has yet to be settled.
Angst said that he hoped the board could, at a special meeting to be scheduled in two weeks, "correct some of the problems I have that are causing me to vote no," he said.
That meeting, Superintendent Rosemary Porembo said, will be to discuss teachers' contract negotiations.
In response to Chaplain Gilbert Henry of VFW Post 294 and American Legion Post 304, Jim Thorpe, Genther assured the veterans that "there is no danger to the JROTC program this year."
Henry, along with Coaldale VFW Post 6982 ladies' auxiliary president Faith Richards and Desrosiers, spoke in support of the program and Markovich. Richards' daughter, Stephanie Richards, a JROTC graduate now serving in the military, sent a letter in the program's support.
Henry said he had heard that Markovich would not be in charge of the program anymore.
"That's not true," Genther said. "That's not true."
After the veterans spoke, DeMarco confronted Genther, telling her "you're up here sugarcoating, that you're for JROTC. Don't sugarcoat the situation. It is the plan to shut down JROTC, because without a commander in charge, we cannot have a program."
In response to veterans' questions, Hiles said the "military tells us what the compensation package will be for the instructors," but that the school district "goes above and beyond." He also advised people to check with Porembo on any rumors they hear.
In the 2010-2011 school year, Markovich earned $56,576.58.
He was to receive $57,654.74 as of January. Jordan's salary from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 is $20,441, with a pay adjustment in January.
The U.S. Army reimburses the school district for half the cost of the program.
On June 28, Genther and Angst voted against Markovich's contract; DeMarco, Hunsicker and Zabroski voted in favor of the new contract.
Jeff Markovich, who is Kenneth Markovich's brother, and his wife, board member Michelle Markovich, abstained from voting. Hiles and Nalesnik were absent.