SALEM — Parents and students in Salem High School’s military cadet program are breathing a sigh of relief after learning it will be spared from elimination.
Superintendent Michael Delahanty said yesterday the program will be extended for at least another two years but the $191,000 cost must be funded entirely by the school district. The Air Force previously picked up about $59,000 of the Junior ROTC program’s cost.
Delahanty informed parents and students of the 86-member unit on April 3 that the Air Force notified the school district that the 14-year program would be deactivated at the end of the school year because of federal funding cuts.
They were also told the funding was cut because of the district’s inability to meet the minimum 100-student enrollment. The program only had more than 100 students once in 14 years, Delahanty said.
Students and their parents were devastated, according to Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Puzzo, who has led the program since 2002. The unit has averaged 85 to 95 members over the years, he said.
Delahanty appealed to the state’s legislative delegation for help but was told it was too late. But Salem High received a reprieve in the last several days, learning it could continue to have a cadet program.
But it couldn’t be a Junior ROTC program because funding was eliminated, Delahanty said. The school is allowed to participate in a similar program — the National Defense Cadet Corps — but no federal money is available, he said.
There are no major differences between the two programs, he said.
“The only difference is we fully fund the program now,” Delahanty said.
But the district was given two years to boost its membership to at least 100 cadets, he said.
Delahanty and Puzzo said they will work to recruit more students for the program, which includes students from Pelham and Windham.