Clay County superintendent gets private school student into JROTC

Clay County public schools superintendent Charlie Van Zant has given the green light for 15-year-old private school student Kevin Gines to attend the district’s Junior ROTC program.

Kevin Gines hopes to join a JROTC program.
Kevin Gines hopes to join a JROTC program.

“This isn’t that hard,’’ said Van Zant, who was able to quickly resolve an issue over whether Gines was eligible. “We’re not going to keep a kid out of ROTC.’’

Kevin is a rising sophomore and A- and B-student at Christian Home Academy in Orange Park. He attends through a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, which is based on his family’s income. The district was first unsure whether it could allow Kevin to take a naval science class that is part of the JROTC program at Middleburg High, and one administrator denied the request.

Van Zant says the situation reflects on the changing nature of public education in Clay County.

“Private-schoolers being enrolled in two schools at once – honestly, it’s probably never happened before,’’ he said. “We’re in a really exciting time in education.’’

The Florida Department of Education reviewed the case, as well, to make sure that Kevin’s enrollment in the district class does not affect the status of his scholarship. Under current law, scholarship students are allowed to take up to two public virtual courses a year. After final review, the education commissioner’s office determined that the JROTC course is consistent with that provision.

“This is a good example of how our public education landscape is changing so rapidly,’’ said Doug Tuthill, president of the nonprofit that helps administer the scholarship (and that hosts this blog). “Our state polices are struggling to keep up.’’

Avatar photo

BY Sherri Ackerman

Sherri Ackerman is the former associate editor of redefinED. She is a former correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times and reporter for The Tampa Tribune, writing about everything from cops and courts to social services and education. She grew up in Indiana and moved to Tampa as a teenager, graduating from Brandon High School and, later, from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications/news editing. Sherri passed away in March 2016.