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Published January 14. 2014 05:00PM

There's a good chance that this could be the last year for Panther Valley's JROTC program.

The Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps will likely be disbanded at Panther Valley High School unless the district receives a waiver from the Army to utilize non-commissioned officers as advisers.

The waiver will have to be obtained by the time the district meets next month or a motion is expected to be made to end the program, the only one in Carbon County.

During a meeting of the education committee of the school board Monday night, school directors were told that seven qualified officers on the Cadet's Command List would meet the criteria to serve as adviser. Each was contacted, but none appeared interested.

Superintendent of Schools Rosemary Porembo said there is a stipulation that if no commissioned officer can be found, that the program can operate with two non-commissioned officers if a waiver is received.

She told the directors the district had applied for a waiver but was rejected, stating, "They denied the waiver because they said we didn't have the search on long enough."

The district was told to continue the search for a commissioned officer until December. Porembo will again be seeking the waiver.

She also noted that she was contacted by a commissioned officer wanting to retire who might be interested in the position.

School director Daniel Heaney, chairman of the education committee, said 80 students are in the JROTC program.

High school Principal Joseph Gunnels said a decision must be made soon on the program for next year because eighth-grade students start making course selections for ninth grade in March or early April.

Porembo said if the JROTC program is discontinued, she would request that a technology program be added in its place.

Panther Valley High School's JROTC program is one of 28 in Pennsylvania high schools, including the Pine Grove Area School District.

The school board had fired its JROTC adviser, Senior U.S. Army Instructor Major Kenneth Markovich, last June.

SFC Joseph Jordan was named as the adviser, but Jordan is not a commissioned officer.

Markovich, of Pottsville, filed a federal lawsuit last month against The Panther Valley School District, its board and superintendent and one board member in particular, claiming they violated the terms of his contract, violated his civil rights, and released confidential information to the public.

The suit asks for more than $75,000 in damages.

Roy Angst is the board member named in the suit.

The suit accuses Porembo of engineering Markovich's decertification by the U.S. Army Cadet Command, and Angst of releasing confidential information through his online blog and at a public school board meeting.

During last night's meeting, Angst stressed that he is hopeful the JROTC program can continue.

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