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Denver Handball High School loses the JROTC program

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Denver Handball High School loses the JROTC program

One of Denver’s oldest and most famous high schools is losing a program that, according to former students, has boosted their confidence and changed the trajectory of their lives.

The ROTC junior program in the High School Manual will be transferred in the fall to Northfield High, a large school that caters to a wealthier community. Alumni of the leadership said their grief was shattered by the prospect of losing the 1st sergeant. Eric Posey, who taught JROTC in Manual for 15 years. They describe him as a humble leader who pushed them for the better.

Pazi teaches JROTC in a way that includes all students, including people with disabilities, the graduates said. In past reviews, he is described as an indispensable, exemplary army instructor and a devoted and beloved teacher who “is the core of the Manual family”. When the manager, who was not supposed to evaluate Posy, inserted a negative comment into the recent performance evaluation, Posy filed a complaint – and won.

“Many of us are very grateful to be the 1st Sergeant. was our year in times of turmoil, ”said Ariana Vilalavas, who graduated from the Guide in 2016 as a glorifier and now works as an educator at Aurora. “He’s such a big support, and losing him will be a big blow to the school.”

1st Sergeant Eric Posey has been teaching JROTC at Manual High School since 2007.

Melanie Asmar / Chalkbeat

JROTC is a joint program of the U.S. Army and the School District. The goal is to teach students values ​​such as leadership, teamwork and self-discipline. Schools request JROTC programs, and the military decides whether to give them. Instructors like Pose are retired servicemen certified for military training but hired in schools.

Retired Lt. Col. Kevin Black, director of military training at Denver Public Schools, said the county decided to postpone the JROTC Manual program after military officials said they were unlikely to give Denver a new program for Northfield because the Manual program was under-enrolled. They suggested Denver instead move the Manual program to Northfield, Black said.

At least two members of the Denver School Board, Tay Anderson and Scott Esserman, are concerned about the move. Anderson is a 2017 graduate and a graduate of the JROTC school program. Esserman’s daughter graduated from the Manual last year.

“It’s poorly thought out,” said Esserman, whose daughter did not participate in the JROTC. “It feels, it seems, and it smells like institutional racism.”

Manual students make up 95% of blacks and Hispanics, and 75% of students are eligible for subsidized school meals, indicating poverty. In Northfield, located eight miles away, 55% of students are colored students, and only 31% are eligible for concessional meals.

There are other differences between schools. Northfield is the newest Denver high school it has opened in 2015 with an emphasis on offering rigorous international undergraduate classes to all students. The manual, meanwhile, was opened in 1894 with an emphasis on teaching students professions. In recent decades, her students have endured frequent program changestraumatic school closureand recurrent leadership changes.

“This is the trauma we are talking about to get rid of,” Anderson said of the JROTC decision. “People shouldn’t feel like we make decisions about them without them. They need to feel that we are working with them. This did not happen. People have rightly suffered. “

Black said Manual is losing its JROTC program due to registration. Manual is a smaller school with about 315 students this year, compared to almost 1,600 in Northfield. Although the Manual started this year with 112 students in the JROTC program, only 57 remain.

The JROTC rules state that the high school program must have at least 100 students or 10% of the students. In 57 students the program allowance exceeds the 10% threshold.

But Black said 57 students are not enough for a thriving program in which juniors and seniors instruct sophomores and freshmen, and the program does not have enough students to compete in JROTC competitions such as color protection and air rifle. Denver Public Schools 10 other JROTC programs Black said more than 100 students are enrolled.

“We don’t cover as many students [at Manual] as we could if we were involved in such a big program as Northfield, ”Black said. “Without student involvement, the program just falls apart.”

Leader Joe Glover said he agreed with the recommendation to move the JROTC program, but stressed that it was not his decision.

“I don’t want to lose anything in the Manual that adds value to our students,” Glover said. “But given the current recruitment and current state of the JROTC program, as well as the ability to serve a large number of students in the county, this seemed like the best solution for all students.”

Pose disagrees that his program is underdeveloped. Manual has repeatedly received the highest accreditation rating that the JROTC program can receive, including this year.

Instead, Posey said he believes the move is retribution for the fact that he challenged his performance rating in 2019-20. Although his immediate supervisor rated him “excellent,” Black’s predecessor as director of military training at Denver’s public schools wrote that Posey “was not an elite performer.” At the meeting, the former director told Pose that it happened because the Manual team “never wins” in JROTC competitions, according to arbitration award.

The arbitrator ruled in favor of Posey, who as a teacher at Denver Public Schools is a member of the Teachers Union. According to a memorandum of understanding between JROTC instructors and the county, the former director of military training had no right to evaluate Pose. In addition, the arbitrator considered the director’s comment unfounded.

The former principal “seemed to be trying to unilaterally import unnecessary military standards into a civilian high school,” the arbitrator wrote, which was “completely inappropriate” and inconsistent with JROTC’s educational mission.

Pose said he has repeatedly clashed with leaders because he does not treat students like soldiers. When a student comes to him in class in a bad mood, Posey tries to understand the essence of the behavior rather than demanding change: are they tired? Upset about something at home?

“We are not an army. We are more like a lesson in civil science, – said Pose. “When I pushed to say,‘ We want every child. Every child deserves an opportunity, ”I sometimes refuse.

“It’s not about winning [JROTC competitions]”- he added. “It’s about giving students the opportunity to participate. Real learning comes with their participation.

Darrell Burton said that if it weren’t for Pose, he wouldn’t have graduated. When he joined JROTC, Burton said he often missed school or left early. Posy was convinced that Burton had gone to class – and when he was fighting Shakespeare in an English class, Posy helped him understand this and encouraged him to write an essay that allowed him to pass.

“No matter what happens, he always looks in the positive direction,” Burton said.

Daniel Nicholas joined JROTC in her sophomore year because it was one of two electives that matched her schedule and she didn’t want to go to music classes. She didn’t expect JROTC to like it, but she said Pose’s mentorship changed that – and her attitude towards school.

“He wasn’t there to take me down,” Nicholas said. “He was there, picking me up, giving me advice, making it clear how life is, that I need school and I have to finish.”

Benita Zamora remembers Pose as a steady influence during turbulent times in the Manual. Zamora was part of the first group of students to attend the textbook after it reopened in 2007. He said he was a cheeky freshman who was excellent in class but “didn’t care enough”. Pose understood this and encouraged him to become a leader, Zamora said.

“He taught us about life and how to treat people,” Zamora said. “He is very modest but respectful. Even though I tried to push his buttons, he never took it. “

Alumni and community members said they hope Denver Public Schools and JROTC will reconsider deciding to move the Manual program to Northfield. Pose, who is one of the longest-serving teachers in the Manual, also hopes so. He could have applied for an instructor position in Northfield, but after winning his complaint, he said his supervisor had put him on a “performance improvement plan” that reduces his chances of being hired.

“I’m going to go down and swing,” Posey said.

“It’s wrong at all levels, and our kids don’t deserve it.”

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado that covers Denver public schools. Contact Melanie at masmar@chalkbeat.org.

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