Superintendent Reaches out to Marines, says they will be treated respectfully
By: Tom Duggan – June, 2011
Sgt Cardona the Marine Recruiter in Lawrence and a number of past recruiters have long complained that the faculty at North Andover High School are not only uncooperative when they enter the building to recruit, “but there’s a real level of hostility” Cardona told us.
Cardona and recruits from the other branches of the military have long been complaining to the Valley Patriot about the problems they encounter at North Andover High.
“We go in and they do the absolute minimum they have to,” Sgt Cardona continued. “We get dirty looks, snide comments, it’s really clear some members of the faculty don’t want us there. All we are trying to do is tell young kids about the opportunities available in the US Marines.”
Recruiters from the other branches of the military echoed Cardona’s concern saying that of all the high schools they try to recruit in “North Andover is by far, the worst.” Complaints about treatment by the faculty and administration at NAHS go back to 2008 when the Valley Patriot received our first complaint from an air force recruiter stationed in Lawrence.
“We walk into the building and some of the are very nice but, as soon as we set up an area to meet with students we observe faculty rediricting students away from where we are, shooing kids away from us, telling kids to ‘go find something else to do’,” Air Force Recruiter Sgt. Moore told us two years ago.
School Committeeman Karin Rhotin said she was surprised to hear that recruiters are given a hard time at NAHS.
“If that is the case I’m happy to look into it and do something about that. That just isn’t right,” she told the Valley Patriot.
Less than twelve hours after contacting Rhoten for the story, Superintendent Hottel responded with an email that was forwarded to the paper.
“I have called the Marine Corps office and have been assured by a representative there that North Andover High School has a good relationship with the Marines and other branches of the military. We are proud to have the branches of our military communicating information to our students about careers in the military,” Hottel’s email stated.
The superintendent forwarded an email from Principal Scuzzarella, which read in part:
“I checked with Steve Nugent and Pam Mesquita (School-to-Career) about this information. We allow all the military agencies the same access that we allow colleges and other outside groups. Steve tells me the high school has never allowed recruiting – it is for informational purposes only, just like the college representatives.”
“Pam Mesquita told me that for the past couple years she has sponsored a “Military Week.” She has set up a week in February when any branch of the service could send a representative during lunch to speak with interested students and provide information.”
“There was no deliberate attempt on the part of this high school to not allow the military branches access to students in the appropriate manner.”
But recruiters ay that “access” isn’t the issue.
“The issue isn’t about the school not giving us access,” Sgt. Cardona clarified. “It’s about the way we get treated when we walk into the building. If you talk to the other recruiters (which the Valley Patriot did) they will tell you the same thing. It is very hard to get recruits out of North Andover High and that’s partly because of the interference we get from some of the people who work there.”
School Committeeman Karin Rhoten said that there are some teachers who are anti-military and anti war at NAHS but that is common in most educational facilities.”
“I know that we have a number of teachers who were outspoken against the war in Iraq and feel that the military is something subservient to going into college. It’s pretty common in any education environment not just North Andover. But, I am dissappointed to hear that it may be happening here and the recruiters are having a hard time.”
While the Valley Patriot was at Devans Army base interviewing local recruits, our reporter asked for a show of hands to see how many kids represented each local high school.
“How many here are in Lawrence High?” our reporter asked the of recruits getting a resonse of a few dozen hands. Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill, Middleton, and other surrounding communities were all well represented among the fifty plus recruits attending the pre-boot camp training.
But when our reporter asked “Who here is from North Andover High School?” Not one hand went up.
One recruit, Chris St. Louis said he graduated from NAHS last year and is now attending Northern Essex Commuity College.
“It is dissapointng that some folks feel the military is step back from higher education. In reality it’s a step forward for many kids,” Committeeman Rhoten continued. “They learn honor, loyalty, love of country and the military teachers the importance of service to others. Those are all things [that] kids coming out of college don’t have today because they just don’t get it in the schools and many kids don’t get it at home.”
School Committeeman Rhoten comes from a military family herself. Her grandfather was a WWII Navy veteran. Her brother is currently in the Navy and her father is retired Air Force.
“Some educators really believe ‘why waste your time in military when you can go on to college and better yourself,’ she said. “But, a career in the military gives kids a college opportunities and with the GI bill and other military benefits it can set a student on the right path. My opinion is that this it’s a great way to better yourself.”
“I tell my 3 sons, I would be proud to see them in ROTC programs. I would be proud if they ever joined the military. Nothing would make me happier than to see my sons serve their country.”
Rhoten said that she doesn’t believe that the problems recruiters have at NAHS are most likely not the fault of the principal or superintendent. “I can’t imagine that they would know anything about it much less condone it. But it shouldn’t be happening at all.”
Former School committeeman Chuck Ormsby said he agrees.
“If it’s true I’m shocked. We never had any complaints about that when I was on the committee and I would not expect that the principal or superintendent had anything to do with it. You know we have a small group of very liberal, anti-military, anti-war teachers and adminitrators over there and if they are giving any recruiter a hard time it should be adrreesed immediately. My sense is that now that it has been brought to the adminitration’s attention that this kind of thing won’t happen anymore.”
Superintendent Hottel says that, “In the Class of 2011, we have 3 students out of 303 graduates who are intending to enter military service, one with the US Army and two with the US Air Force.”
“Our valedictorian of the Class of 2009 is attending West Point. On scholarship night in 2009 we had a very moving presentation from representatives of the US Army of the appointment letter for our valedictorian.
“I have spoken to a Marine Corps representative and to staff members at our high school. All agree that teachers and administrators at NAHS are very welcoming to representatives of all branches of the armed services.”
While teachers and administrators at NAHS have denied that there has been any hostility shown to any of the recruiters, recruiters say that’s just not the case, however “we are not looking to embarass anyone and Superintedent Hottel did reach out to us when he saw the Valley Patriot posting on this story on Facebook and assured us that we will be treated with respect when we enter the building and that’s all we care about. Our job is to give students the information about opportunities in the U.S. Marines and if this story helps in changing the way we get treated then it’s all good.
Hottel said that he spoke with the Men’s Club at the Senior Center in North Andover, “and I mentioned to them that we especially value and honor our veterans in school events, and that one of the reasons we do this is because we seek to teach respect and service as part of our acclaimed Building Respectful Communities initiative. This is an active initiative at all of schools, from the elementary schools through the high school.”