May 20, 2024

Financial trends over time can reveal how well entities are run.

A flurry of social media posts regarding local military school Randolph-Macon Academy has piqued the interest of school alumni, parents and some R-MA staff as well after many received a Friday, April 28 email, inviting them to participate in a survey about the state of the school, the 2023 loss of the Air Force JROTC program and other topics.

The anonymous email was sent from “Concerned Friends of R-MA”, suggesting that it was from the Facebook group RMA Friends. Group founder Kyle McDaniel, the sole administrator, posted a statement on the page, that the email was not from him nor the group.

McDaniel wrote, “It’s no secret that the school is going through changes that I would personally characterize as severely misguided and detrimental. It’s also no secret that the recent termination of the AFJROTC program was a direct result of dysfunctional leadership on the part of the current president and board of trustees… trust me when I say, if I’m going to blast anyone, I will put my name out there and take the heat for it.”

McDaniel said he created the group as a way for RMA alumni and others to keep up with each other; it is in no way affiliated with the Front Royal school.

R-MA was founded in 1892 by Dr. William W. Smith as part of the Randolph-Macon College preparatory school program. It is one of about 100 military schools in the United States, according to the Association of Military Colleges & Schools of the United States (AMCSUS), which says the schools are in 27 states, in the U.S., Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

Brig. Gen. David C. Wesley, president of the co-ed boarding school, on Sunday sent an email to “all members of the R-MA community” calling the survey request email a “deceptive effort to harm R-MA, falsely styled as a poll.”

A subsequent statement was sent by the school’s board of trustees and signed by Chairman Harry G. Austin, III. It said, in part, that the board had “unequivocal support for General Wesley’s leadership, the progress made by the Academy during his tenure, and the increasingly impressive achievements of our graduates.”

Austin continued, “We live in a world fraught with dispute and anger, but we as Trustees are of one mind on this: R-MA is making leaders who will improve humanity and Dave Wesley and his team are making that happen every day!”

The Shaw Report reached out to Wesley regarding the survey and the former JROTC program; he did not answer the questions posed, but did state, ”  We are in litigation on a topic I believe is closely related to this subject, so I will decline to make a general statement on the matter.  Please send me specific questions you’d like to have answers to and I’ll review and respond, as the Academy determines would be appropriate.”

The survey request email has sparked conversation surrounding R-MA, particularly regarding the loss of the U.S. Air Force JROTC program. The school was a founding member in 1975 and participated for 48 years before being dropped in 2023.

 

Sources familiar with the circumstances say that the school was warned in March 2021 that there were some compliance concerns. An email obtained by The Shaw Report shows that on March 17, 2021, Wesley emailed several staff members to inform them that the Air Force had placed R-MA on probation.

Colonel Stephen Sanders, Director of the Air Force JROTC program sent a March 17, 2021, letter to Wesley stating that R-MA was “not operating in full compliance with the AFROTC Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).”

Sanders stressed the seriousness of the issue and said that the planned exit of all three JROTC instructors exacerbated the situation. The Air Force would go on to cancel the JROTC program in June 2023.

Several individuals told The Shaw Report that they were not informed by R-MA that the Air Force had terminated the program; an alumnus recalls that he received an email in June 2023. Others say they only learned of the loss after reading a local newspaper article last month, some 10 months after the Air Force yanked the program. An internet search failed to produce a news release from R-MA, nor any stories related to the Air Force’s action at the time it occurred in 2023. We received no press releases from R-MA regarding the loss of the JROTC program.

While it is unclear who sent the survey to R-MA staff and alumni, because of some of the issues raised, The Shaw Report felt compelled to take a closer look at R-MA.

The academy’s nonprofit status requires the school to file IRS Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, each calendar year. The document is a financial snapshot of an organization and can reveal much about the state of an entity. The returns are open to the public and can be found on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

In 2015, the year Wesley was hired as Major General Maury Forsyth’s successor, R-MA had 255 employees, an annual payroll of nearly $6.8 Million, gross receipts approaching $23.2 Million and net assets of $32.2 Million. Tuition, according to an archived copy of RMA’s boarding school review profile (from Jan. 10, 2016) was $26, 640.

Wesley’ initial salary of $150, 345 per year was bumped up to $203,015 in 2016. Staff decreased by 18, to 237 employees. Gross receipts decreased to $17 Million; net assets were $32.7 Million.

Financial trends over time can reveal how well entities are run.

Each subsequent year saw Wesley enjoy a hefty salary bump, save for 2018. According to the 990 forms, Wesley was paid $210,653 in 2017. However, in 2018, his annual salary dropped $4,730, to $205,923.

In 2019, R-MA’s 990 return shows that the president’s salary was $212,831. That reflects an increase of $6,908.

Staff numbers dropped from 224 in 2018 to 185 in 2019. They would drop again during the pandemic of 2020, to 167 paid personnel. Wesley again enjoyed a substantial pay raise.

In a year where businesses lost 25-percent of their revenue and 11-percent of their workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the R-MA president got a raise of almost four percent, taking him to $221,300.

2021 was also kind to the retired general; his salary became a staggering $253,526. The school also reported two fewer employees, taking the paid staff to 165.

The board, as Mr. Austin stated, has “unequivocal support for General Wesley’s leadership.”

Under that leadership, a legacy affiliation with the United States Air Force was lost; graduates who join the Air Force can no longer earn up to two extra stripes—and a higher beginning salary– upon enlisting, and there has been somewhat of a mass exodus among long-term staff, according to various sources.

When Wesley was appointed president in 2015, tuition at the then-USAF-affiliated school was $26,640; this academic year it costs $49,067.

Now R-MA’s leaders have another challenge to tackle: a federal lawsuit brought by a former employee.

On March 4, 2024, Louis Massett, the former Director of Advancement at R-MA, filed a civil complaint in federal court claiming discrimination and retaliation against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), and the Virginia Human Rights Act. (“VHRA”) Massett also claims that R-MA failed to honor his employment contract.

The lawsuit will likely take years to sort out. In the meantime, the school has no military affiliation, tuition has nearly doubled since 2015, and a number of long-term employees are gone.

Perhaps it is time for the R-MA trustees to take a long, hard look at themselves and their leadership.

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