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Florida Times Union: Mayor goes private to keep JROTC programs at 4 Duval schools alive

Posted: August 2, 2011 – 7:09pm  |  Updated: August 3, 2011 – 1:22am

By Topher Sanders 

Unnamed donors help raise $200,000 to keep 4 school programs.

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown made good on two campaign refrains Tuesday when he announced he had raised more than $200,000 to save four high school Junior ROTC programs.

Brown said the gesture was an example of the power of public-private partnerships, something he spoke about often as a candidate and an example of his commitment to make public education a top priority.

Brown made the announcement at Englewood High School in front of about 50 parents, educators and Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps students in military uniforms.

The JROTC programs at Englewood, MandarinRaines and Wolfson high schools had been cut by the schools because of budget constraints and low enrollment. The cuts would affect about 500 students.

“These cuts do not coincide with my vision and many of my colleagues’ vision for this city [and] to take Jacksonville to the next level,” Brown told the crowd.

How can Jacksonville boast about being a “military friendly” city when it’s cutting JROTC programs, Brown asked.

Brown said he would release the donors’ names once he had approval. He was aiming for some time before school starts.

“This is a classic example on how public-private partnerships should work,” he said.

Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals agreed.

“I think this is a great example of what Mayor Brown promised when he came into office,” he said, “that is, that it’s going to be a partnership.”

U.S. Rep Andrew Crenshaw, R-Fla., atended the announcement and said he would be working with military leaders in Washington to loosen the rules around JROTC programs to give schools more financial flexibility in running the programs.

Brian Hickman, whose son Bryce Sullivan is a JROTC student at Englewood, has been working with parents from the other schools to raise money to save the programs. Hickman applauded Brown’s announcement.

“I think it’s great,” Hickman said. “This is what these kids have been fighting for the whole time, that’s why we did that car wash this past weekend. Everything was a complete citywide effort. This whole city woke up over this whole thing.”

Angel Vega, 16, the battalion commander at Mandarin, beamed after the event.

“I think it’s outstanding,” Angel said. “This is really why I go to school. ROTC made me the person I am today.”

The mayor’s assistance will only save the programs for one year. District officials said they will be working on ways to fund the programs after the 2011-12 school year.

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