NJROTC instructors confront ACS board about pension

Rebecca R. Bibbs | The Herald BulletinCapt. Neil May of Anderson High School’s Navy JROTC program addresses the Anderson Community Schools board Monday about state pension concerns.

ANDERSON – The instructors who operate Anderson High School’s Navy JROTC program came before the Anderson Community Schools’ board of trustees Tuesday to express dissatisfaction with their contract.

However, Superintendent Timothy Smith said the compensation offered under the contract, signed by him, the instructors, board President Pat Hill and board Secretary Holly Renz, is set by the federal government.

“We have talked to them many times through the course of the year, and they’re just not satisfied with the answer we’ve given them,” he said.

Smith said the contract was not approved by the board in an open meeting, and Capt. Neil May and Chief David Scaramazzo, though they are referred to as noncertified instructors, are not part of a collective bargaining unit. For that reason, Smith said the details of their compensation are a personnel matter.

Anderson Federation of Teachers President G. Randall Harrison said he has reviewed the contract and forwarded it to the union’s counsel.

May said he is paid $38,500 payable every two weeks over the course of the school year. The instructors of the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps are paid by the school district, with half their wages reimbursed by the federal government, May said.

However, though he was eligible for the state’s pension program at other districts where he has worked, May said though he is a full-time employee of the district, ACS refuses to contribute 3% to INPRS and PERF on their behalf.

“Every school district except ACS offers their instructors the option to enroll in PERF,” he said. “I signed it because it looked like the one in Washington, Indiana, but it’s not,” he said.

May said he and Scaramazzo offered to pay the entire minimum contribution out of their own pockets on behalf of the district so they can become vested, but to date have not received an official answer or feedback on the matter.

Retention problems

Capt. Neil May, instructor for Anderson High School's Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, said the unit at AHS is one of six in the state but is out of sync with the high standards set by the others either in programming. That reduces year-over-year retention and deprives the students of opportunities to earn scholarships to pay for post-secondary education, he said.

“We’re not here to recruit kids. We’re here to create good citizens,” he said. “We’re here to take them and expose them to the world.”

May said the district fails to support the program by requiring students to earn a physical education credit their sophomore years, interrupting their leadership development.

“I would describe the AHS NJROTC as a lump of coal, and it will remain so unless kids remain long enough for the pressure, heat and time applied by our program standards needed to produce diamonds.”