GREENVILLE — Greenville Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously accepted the resignation of NJNJROTC Chief Stephen Eldred with a 4-0 vote.
Board member Fred Matix was absent.
According to Superintendent Doug Fries, Eldred voluntarily submitted his resignation letter on Friday, Dec. 6.
Eldred, who has been with the district since May 2015, has been on administrative leave since Dec. 3.
The regular monthly BOE meeting, held in the Anna Bier Gallery at Memorial Hall was standing room only, filled with students, parents, grandparents, and community members in support of Eldred.
Eldred’s alleged infraction was not explained during the board meeting, however, Fries did respond to an email request from DarkeCountyMedia.com sent Dec. 3, prior to Eldred’s resignation, asking if the alleged incident involved a student.
“No,” Fries replied, explaining “he (Eldred) is on leave for an internal investigation. The leave started today (Dec.3).”
During the public portion of Wednesday’s meeting, 13 individuals requested time to speak.
Many commented on how Eldred’s support during difficult times had positively affected their families.
“My son would not have graduated if not for Chief,” said Alice Evans. “A lot of these kids won’t go back to school without Chief.”
Andrea Gray, who has worked with the NJROTC boosters, said she has three sons who have been enrolled in Greenville’s NJROTC program.
“What’s decided by the board isn’t just going to affect the students,” Gray said, explaining how under Eldred’s leadership the NJROTC program’s community service has grown from 800 hours to 3,500.
“Did he do something wrong?” Gray asked. “Yes. He admitted his responsibility.”
Several students emotionally shared examples of how Eldred had encouraged them to make life-changing decisions – including forgoing self-harm.
“His program made me want to wake up in the morning,” said one student who said she had considered suicide until Eldred encouraged her otherwise.
Both Fries and board president Brad Gettinger took a moment to address this student, pointing out there were teachers, guidance counselors and the Recovery & Wellness program counselors who were there to help her if faced with thoughts of suicide.
“He always has a positive attitude. He’s teaching us to be ready for life,” said student Cheyanne Hartsock.
Former NJROTC student Dalton Ratcliff also shared his support of his NJROTC instructor.
“If you genuinely care about these students here, you’ll keep him.” Ratcliff said.
Another parent, Kimberly Bryant, also addressed board members.
“It would be a mistake to accept his resignation,” Bryant said. “He doesn’t just help out in the school, but also in the community. We all understand he should face some kind of consequence.”
Community member and veteran Fred Dean said he’d worked with Chief Eldred on numerous occasions with both VFW and American Legion projects.
“I’d hate to see him go,” Dean said.
Prior to accepting Eldred’s resignation, Gettinger thanked those who attended and spoke in behalf of the instructor.
“I know it’s difficult to come here and talk about a difficult subject,” Gettinger said. “Personnel issues are never easy. We take it seriously. I understand it’s an emotional issue.”
Fries also commented, explaining how the school district would “always stand behind the programs we have.”
Eldred’s resignation is effective Dec. 25.
Reach Managing Editor Susan Hartley at firstname.lastname@example.org