Panther Valley School Board still hasn't decided whether it will retain the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at the high school.

Hopefully, the program won't be eliminated.

The main reason the board would get rid of the program is finances.

Business manager Kenneth R. Marx Jr. said JROTC net costs amount to about $109,000.

Board member Irene Genther is quoted at the recent school board member as saying:

"We're trying to improve our (PSSA test) scores, and trying to get out of ... this (financial) hole that we're in. That's prime to me. Prime to me is not training soldiers when we're cutting back."

But Superintendent Rosemary Porembo countered those remarks, stating, "We're not training soldiers. What we're doing is teaching leadership skills. (Students) could go from the JROTC program to post-secondary schools, into industry ... wherever you go, what they are taking with them are core leadership skills: Citizenship, working collaboratively, the ability to manage other people."

She added, "The way I look at this, I don't look at it as training soldiers. I am looking at it as producing leaders."

The superintendent said it best.

We realize that the Panther Valley School District, just like many other school districts, has serious financial issues to resolve.

On the other hand, the school district has an obligation to educate students in more ways than just the proverbial three Rs.

Schools have to prepare students for the future. The JROTC program certainly does that.

Panther Valley School District is to be commended for being the only district in Carbon County to have a JROTC program. All school districts have extra-curricular activities, and this has to continue. Students need opportunities beyond the classroom.

The JROTC program is unique in that there's probably no other organization that so stresses discipline and leadership.

Whether it is in a parade where the JROTC students, dressed neatly in their uniforms, walk down the street, or at a military member's funeral, or participating in other community events, the youngsters look impressive.

They're proud to be part of the organization. They work hard at attaining the objectives offered to them in the program.

In the day and age when drug arrests are so prevalent, and other social maladies negatively affect young lives, we owe it to our young people to offer to them something constructive. The JROTC program certainly helps good kids become better.

Hopefully the Panther Valley School Board works hard to come up with funding to retain the JROTC program. Eliminating it would be a disservice to the students and to the district itself.

Admittedly $109,000 is a lot of money. But is should be considered as an investment into the lives of these young people.

We have to do what we can for the good students; the kids who are trying to better themselves, even if it means making a financial sacrifice.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]