OCEAN CITY – Stephen Decatur Principal Lou Taylor confirmed this week the high school’s enrollment in the newly initiated Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) program is in the clear of its “probation period”.
Last year Stephen Decatur High School’s National Junior Officer Reserve Training Corps (NJROTC) was shaken up when it learned the Navy was planning on removing the program from the school. The NJROTC was operated for 17 years at Decatur and was one of 19 similar programs to be phased out nationwide.
According to the Navy, Decatur was chosen to have the program dissolved because it had failed to meet the minimum required number of cadets enrolled in NJROTC for five consecutive years. Last year Stephen Decatur only fell six cadets short of the 100 cadet minimum. Taylor said NNDCC has reached up to at least 118 to 120 cadets this year.
“We have picked that [NNDCC] up and it is off and running well and our numbers are up,” he said. “We are well above our minimum number, which we knew we were going to be above that before they snatched the program from us.”
Once the pubic discovered the Navy’s move to disband Stephen Decatur’s NJROTC program, citizens immediately jumped into action, creating an outcry that caused the Navy to reconsider. Many local residents, leaders, educators and Stephen Decatur alumni sent letters, emails, petitions and even a website to gain support in keeping the program alive.
The petition eventually caught the attention of the Worcester County Commissioners and state delegates. The community’s support drew in Senators Barbara Mikulsji and Ben Cardin who spoke out in defense of the program.
“Junior officer training programs like the one at Stephen Decatur High school benefit entire communities,” said Mikulski said in April.
At that time, Cardin said that if it wasn’t for the intense response from alumni, members of the school system, and concerned parents, the NJROTC would have been phased out completely.
Although the high school’s NJROTC program was removed completely, it was immediately replaced by NNDCC. Taylor explained that NNDCC is the same exact program as NJROTC except the funding is different.
“Most of the funding has to come from the school system instead of the Navy,” Taylor said.
Cardin explained that the NNDCC is a new naval program that was created largely in response to the reaction of the communities around Decatur and several of the other schools that were set to lose their NJROTC programs next year. He said the local community support was “instrumental in the Navy’s decision to establish the NNDCC program.”
Taylor was proud to announce that Decatur’s NNDCC program is off to a good start and that a new Lieutenant Commander, Kelly Reavy, has been hired.
“We are very fortunate to still have our Master Chief, David Reynolds, stay on board to add some stability to the program,” he said. “He and Lt. Reavy are working hard and were really excited about the possibilities to have that be successful again.”
According to Taylor, the tab for NNDCC has been picked up by Worcester County whose “big ticket item” is the salary of the two instructors. He added expenses have been reduced though since the Navy allowed the school to keep some equipment and all uniforms.
Taylor said Stephen Decatur High School’s NNDCC program continuance is because of the ongoing support of the surrounding community, elected officials, and the school board.
“As a principal here, I am just delighted to be part of this because our community just fully supports this high school and that is a great feeling,” Taylor said.