Denise Crosby: NJROTC leadership change challenged at East Aurora
BY DENISE CROSBY firstname.lastname@example.org September 24, 2013 4:22PM
Retired Navy Lt. Lauren Carthan, who insists she was unfairly passed over for an ROTC promotion, stands outside the School Service Center before addressing the East Aurora Board of Education Monday evening. | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:20AM
A change in command with the Navy Junior ROTC has created controversy in this popular East Aurora High School program, which boasts the largest cadet unit in the country.
Retired Navy Lt. Lauren Carthan, an Afghanistan War veteran with 22 years in the service, addressed the School Board last week with concerns she wasn’t promoted to the Senior Naval Science Instructor (SNSI) post after her boss, Lt. Cmdr. Darryl Person, stepped down in late August.
Carthan, in her third year at East, is the first female naval science instructor in the program, which has almost 1,000 cadets. She and Person are the only officers among the program’s nine instructors, which is why she says she assumed the senior position would go to her.
Although Person stepped down from the leadership position, the School District sought and was granted a waiver by Area 3 Naval Service Training Center in Great Lakes to hire Person, a senior officer, as a junior-level instructor position. The training center oversees 43 NJROTC units in a nine-state area.
That move appears to have negated NJROTC hiring guidelines that state when the senior position becomes vacant, the “officer employed as the NSI will assume the SNSI position as long as that officer has a baccalaureate degree.”
Although Carthan holds a degree from Southern Illinois University, Person has a higher military rank than Carthan.
Carthan said she’s upset and confused as to why the School District didn’t just simply follow the Navy guidelines and move her into the top position.
An email to her by Area 3 Manager George Clifford confirmed that the School District was looking to hire a unit leader with a higher classification than she held. Carthan applied for the senior position anyway, insisting that, at a time when more women should be granted leadership roles in the military, Person’s waiver to continue teaching kept her from the top spot.
The post eventually went to Cmdr. Timothy Crawford, who headed a smaller cadet unit in Chicago Heights.
Speaking on behalf of Clifford, an Area 3 spokesman confirmed that no woman is serving as a senior instructor in any of the region’s units. He also pointed out that NJROTC instructors are not employees of the Navy, but are hired, managed and paid by the school. The only authority the Navy has, he noted, is certification of instructors.
East Aurora spokesman Matt Hanley said the hiring process was handled the same as any other open position. Carthan was interviewed by a six-person committee several weeks ago, as was Crawford, who was chosen on Sept. 13 because he was the most qualified. In addition to leading an NJROTC unit of 235 cadets at Bloom Trail High School in Chicago Heights, Crawford is a certified teacher for middle and high school, Hanley said.
But Carthan insists she is not questioning Crawford’s qualifications. “I like him and will be supportive of him,” she said of her new boss who comes on board next Monday. “My issue is not with him,” she said. “I just want to know how it got to this point. And I’m not the only one asking why.”
Carthan said she’s received overwhelming support from the other NJROTC instructors at East High for going public with her concerns. Those include Chief Kevin Meadows, who also insisted “more women are needed in positions of leadership” with the Area 3 programs.
“She is a phenomenal leader and the kids all love and respect her,” said Meadows. “That job should have been hers.”
Also questioning that decision is her former boss. Person who said he decided to step down as head of the growing unit at East High so he could return to teaching, which “is my greatest gift.” And even though the waiver allowed Person to return to teaching, he still described the hiring process “as the most convoluted I’ve ever seen.”
“Policies are put on paper for a reason: to protect the integrity of the unit,” said Person. “The military is all about following rules.” Person said that “none of us has received any answers” why the waiver affected Carthan in a negative manner.
Carthan said she will decide this week whether to hire an attorney to fight the issue. Even if it does her no good, she said, “at least I’ve put the spotlight out there on how this was handled.”