BREWER, Maine — The commander of Brewer High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC program was fired Thursday and in response several area residents and former students went to Monday’s school board meeting to express their displeasure or concern.
Retired Lt. Col. Jay Winslow, who came to Brewer in 2014 after leading the ROTC program at Oklahoma State University, was sent a termination letter on July 7 that said his last day was to be Aug. 31. When he requested his personnel file, he was informed that July 7 was actually his last day, Winslow said after the school meeting ended.
“I can’t say too much at this time until my appeal to the Air Force is finished,” Winslow said. “I expect to be making that submittal next week and I anticipate that to be very favorable.”
Until the process is completed, Winslow said, he could not comment on the reason the school department listed for firing him.
Superintendent Cheri Towle also was tight-lipped about the reason.
“While I cannot speak to this specific personnel matter, decisions on who the Brewer School Department rehires for at-will employees are made yearly after carefully assessing all the facts,” Towle said in a Monday email. “These decisions are made based on what is best for our students and our programs.
Brewer High was in jeopardy of losing its Junior ROTC program until Winslow and retired Senior Master Sgt. Anthony “Tony” Campbell took command and turned things around so fast that within a year the school was ranked in the top 2 percent of the country by the national program.
Former school board member Jeff Taylor was the first of nine in the audience to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. He asked that a committee be formed to look into how the program runs.
“If the board is unwilling or unable to form this committee … I will conduct an independent investigation into what is going on with our Junior ROTC program,” Taylor said.
Resident Nathan Henry, who is retired from the military and has a son in the program, said he believes that Winslow was let go unfairly.
“He’s been a great leader to these kids,” said Henry, who added that the program helped to build character in his son, who is now drill commander.
Henry said he believed that an “unfair statement” that was relayed to school leaders about Winslow conducting Bible studies at his house may have led to the firing.
He said his son “had never even stepped foot into Col. Winslow’s house” before he was fired.
“I think it’s a shame that he was let go,” Henry said. “I think it was not fair and not reflective of how this gentleman conducts himself.”
One parent asked the board to reconsider its decision. Another talked about how they relocated to Brewer after learning that Winslow was leading the program. A third parent said his son, who is home-schooled, also benefits from the program.
The Brewer program, one of two Air Force Junior ROTC programs in the state, started in 2007.
Ryan Mills, who graduated in 2014, said when Winslow started, “we immediately started to see improvement.”
“We went from being on probation to being in the top 2 percent of the nation” under Winslow’s leadership, said Mills, who is currently in college on an ROTC scholarship.