Cadets and Instructors at St. John’s Earn Perfect Score on JROTC Program for Accreditation
The staff and cadets at St. John’s Military School share a commitment to achieving the highest standards, a desire for continual improvement, and a passion for perfection. It is this achievement-minded focus that exists both on an individual, and on a collective level, that has earned St. John’s a perfect 100 percent score on the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Program for Accreditation (JPA).
To earn such merits, both the cadets and the instructors were evaluated against five standards of quality. It was an achievement that required the year-long preparation of every enrolled cadet, the support of every faculty and staff member, and the dedicated leadership of the JROTC instructors and battalion staff.
An overall grade of 100 percent distinguishes the JROTC program at St. John’s Military School as a JROTC Program of Excellence (JPE). For the cadets and instructors at St. John’s, earning a 100 on the JPA is validation that their year of preparation has been rewarded, and that individually and collectively, they have honored St. John’s and the school’s commitment to excellence in every aspect of its curriculum and instruction.
Battalion Public Affairs Officer Cadet Capt. Bryce Kisner, junior, said earning a perfect score was “an emotional time.”
“Being a part of the lead battalion staff, we had to do a lot of the briefings,” he explained. “We had to make sure everybody did their part. It taught us how to work well together, the importance of teamwork, and how to not overload yourself. Getting a 100 gave us a sense that what we had been doing was worthwhile.”
According to First Sergeant Tony Blair, JROTC instructor at St. John’s, the cadets were confident about their performance, but still unwavering in their preparation.
“The cadets were confident we’d do well,” said Blair, “Especially the battalion staff. They quickly realized that the harder they worked at preparing for the assessment, the more they’d get out of it. Even though they went into it with confidence, they worked right up the very last night.
”St. John’s made the decision to involve even their middle school aged cadets in the JPA, making it a truly school-wide accomplishment.
“We are so proud of our middle schoolers,” said Blair “They worked just as hard as any of the other cadets. They were ready for that in rank inspection. Our decision to include our middle schoolers in the JPA is unique, but they worked just as hard. They really shined during the on-site inspection, and they are taking great pride in the results.”
With the satisfaction of having earned the highest possible score, Blair looks back on the entire preparation and review process with pride.
“For me, the biggest pride is in reflecting on what our cadets have achieved,” he explained. “Our battalion staff were incredibly committed to earning the highest possible scores, especially Reece Turner, our Battalion Executive Officer. Reece really took charge of the continuous improvement briefing. He really digested the requirements and owned that process. I am so proud of the young man he has become during his time at St. John’s.”
The Importance of Continual Improvement
Participation in the JPA review is required of all Army JROTC programs once every three years. The process is managed by AdvancEd, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of Pre-K-12 schools and school systems. The goal of the JPA is to ensure all JROTC programs are focused on continual improvements, and are committed to the highest levels of quality instruction.
“JPA includes a cadet in-ranks inspection, a platoon drill, and a color guard review,” said Blair. “But the focus is really on the teaching and learning, and the quality of our curriculum and instruction.”
The JPA also involves a staff battalion continuous improvement briefing, a cadet service learning briefing, cadet portfolio reviews and interviews, and instructor portfolio reviews and interviews.
Battalion Staff Continuous Improvement Project Presentation
The continuous improvement presentation is a cadet-led year-long project that gives cadets an opportunity to be an active part of the school’s advancement and evolutionary development. The mission of JROTC is to encourage young people to become better citizens. With a constant focus on that mission, vision, and values, the battalion staff are required to build and execute a successful action plan for improvement in a particular area of focus.
This year’s cadets chose academics and behavior as their area of focus, and devised an improvement plan that included cadet-led study halls and tutoring.
“The cadets were tasked with conducting a structured reflection,” said Sergeant First Class Geronimo Rivera. “They had to form a plan using what they learned in the classroom, execute it, and then assess their performance. It’s their opportunity to make a positive impact on the school.”
Cadet Service Learning Project
As part of the JROTC’s focus on the importance of community service, cadets are tasked with identifying an essential need in their community and completing a project that effectively addresses that need. With a goal of supporting the needs of children in their community, a team of about 60 St. John’s cadets committed to reading at least once a week to children from the Martin Luther King Child Development Center under a program entitled “Book Buddies.”
Assessment of Teaching and Learning
The JPA aims to assess all JROTC schools’ curriculum and instructional designs to ensure instructor practices are effective at enabling student learning. To determine success, cadets create portfolios that must show evidence of problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and leadership.
When asked about the pressure of the instructor review, Blair says with a smile, “Sure, there was pressure. There was no way I was going to lose points for us. Fortunately, we had the support of the entire school. Our Academic Dean Ginger Wooten, all of the faculty and staff, they all allowed us and our cadets to take the time needed to prepare. Then again, I’ve always said, we have the best faculty and staff in the world here at St. John’s.”
Cadet Drill and In-Ranks Inspection
An on-site cadet drill is performed for the evaluation staff that includes formation, dress, alignment, cadet leader control, and unit response/execution. In ranks, the cadets are assessed for personal appearance and uniform attire, and are asked a series of graded questions. In addition, the battalion staff are individually interviewed.
According to Rivera, since every one of the 113 cadets at St. John’s participates in the JPA, it was truly a school-wide effort to prepare for the portfolio reviews, individual interviews, drill, and in ranks inspection.
“Our cadets studied quite a bit,” he said. “They studied all the questions the evaluators could possibly ask. It takes all year long to prepare, but they were all particularly diligent during the last two months.”
Battalion Commander Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Justin Gilbert, senior, said battalion staff were challenged throughout the inspection to make sure everyone did their job.
“We prepared all year for this. It helped bring cadets closer together by allowing us to work together to complete a common goal. We practiced marching, our uniform appearance, and the history of St. John’s.”
Looking to the Future
Even though the formal JPA inspection won’t occur for another three years at St. John’s, the ROTC instructors would like the opportunity to be assessed annually, as a validation that their program is continuing to improve and serve as a point of pride at St. John’s.
“It holds us all to a high standard,” said Sergeant First Class Rivera.”
“It’s important for the cadets,” adds First Sergeant Blair. “This is a school of goal-oriented young men. They need something to focus on and work toward.”
According to Battalion Executive Officer Cadet Major Reece Turner, for this year’s graduates, earning a perfect score meant a lot to the graduating class.
“One of the things we’re told over and over is that you want to leave a positive mark at St. John’s before you leave,” explained Turner. “I’ve been here since the sixth grade so being a part of the group that earns a perfect score means so much to us. It shows how hard we have worked throughout the year.”
Knowing that the next corps of cadets will be heavily motivated to earn another perfect score, the JROTC instructors at St. John’s plan to ensure the program continues to live up to its recent achievement as a program of distinction until the next formal assessment.
“Our biggest focus is on preparing for next year, and in three years,” said Blair. “I know our next corps will pull together and work just as hard as this year’s group. Our cadets always do.”