November, 29

St. John’s Military School – The Rise & Fall of The Insitution

St. John’s Military School, located in Salina, Kansas, was a well-known military-style boarding school with a history dating back to its founding in 1887. The school firmly focused on discipline, leadership, and character development. It provided education to boys in middle and high school grades.

Over the years, St. John’s Military School gained a reputation for its structured and disciplined environment, with students wearing military-style uniforms and adhering to a code of conduct. The school aimed to instill respect, responsibility, and leadership in its students.

However, please note that St. John’s Military School has faced some controversies, legal issues, and changes in ownership and leadership, and it is currently closed following the cases of abuse filed against it. So we did further research, and here is an updated comprehensive content about St. John’s Military School in Kansas.


St. John’s Military School, nestled in Salina, Kansas, held a distinctive place in the world of private military boarding schools for young male students in grades 6 to 12. With a mission to nurture academic excellence and leadership skills within a unique “military environment,” the institution was led by a dedicated team consisting of a President, Academic Dean, and Commandant of Cadets. However, this storied institution saw its final days after the 2018–2019 academic year, beset by declining enrollment and a cloud of allegations regarding past student abuse. This article delves into the history, achievements, and challenges that marked the journey of St. John’s Military School.

A Tradition of Excellence

St. John’s earned its place as one of the highest-ranked Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs in the United States. The school’s excellence was underscored by its remarkable performance during the Annual Formal Inspection, granting it up to fifteen recommendations to the prestigious U.S. Military Academies. It was an institution that stood tall in its commitment to nurturing leadership qualities in young men.

A Year at St. John’s Military School

The school year at St. John’s spanned from late August to early May. Students had access to honors English, Biology, and Social Studies classes. Additionally, Advanced Placement courses were offered, allowing students to earn college credits in subjects including English, Pre-Calculus, Chemistry, U.S. History, Government, and Computer Science. The institution catered to the diverse interests of its students, offering a comprehensive set of elective courses to equip them for the workforce upon graduation.

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The History of St. John Military School

St. John’s Military School, established in 1887 by the Bishop of Kansas, Elisha Thomas, was envisioned as an Episcopal boarding school for boys aged 8–18. It succeeded the Phillips Military School, initiated by Colonel William Phillips, a prominent figure in Salina’s history. Notably, Salina Troop 1, one of America’s oldest Boy Scout troops, was organized by F. John Romanes, an instructor at St. John’s. Romanes’ connections even extended to Lord Baden-Powell, the British founder of Scouting.

Handle of Memories

The school’s original building, Vail Hall, completed in 1888 and expanded in 1904, was significant in the institution’s history. Sadly, it was destroyed by a fire in November 1977/78.

St John's Military School Handle of Memories
St John’s Military School Handle of Memories



Since 1979, the annual graduation ceremony has included a poignant tradition of passing around the building’s front door handle a relic salvaged from the fire wreckage.

Lights, Camera, Action

St. John’s Military School made a cameo in the 1980 film “Up the Academy,” a Mad magazine spoof focused on military boarding schools. The entire movie was shot in Salina, primarily on the school’s campus, adding a cinematic touch to the school’s legacy.

Allegations of Abuse

St. John’s Military School was not without its share of controversies. A barrage of abuse claims was filed against the institution in a federal lawsuit in March 2012 involving parents representing cadets from various states. The case, which sought undisclosed terms, was settled in March 2014, just before the trial was set to begin. Court records also revealed that leading up to June 2012, St. John’s had settled fourteen previous abuse-related lawsuits since 2006.

A particularly distressing incident came to light in December 2018 when an arbitrator ordered St. John’s to pay $369,175 to the family of a student who, at the tender age of 11 in 2014, fell victim to bullying and abuse by another student. The arbitrator’s findings indicated inadequate and inappropriate student management and a relaxation of admission standards in response to dwindling enrollment.

St John’s Accreditation and Memberships

AdvancED and the Kansas State Department of Education accredited St. John’s. The school was also a proud member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools and the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States, emphasizing its commitment to academic standards and military discipline.

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Junior ROTC Excellence

At the heart of St. John’s identity was its robust Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program. This program extended its sponsorship to rifle and drill teams. The 125th Corps of Cadets achieved a historic milestone by earning a perfect score of 1,000 points on their annual formal inspection. Such an achievement marked a first in the school’s history, acknowledging its dedication to excellence. This distinction granted St. John’s the privilege to make recommendations to each of the five service academies, including the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy.

Athletics and Activities

St. John’s Military School actively participated in interscholastic sports at the junior and varsity levels, competing against independent and public schools. Their athletic program included football, soccer, cross country, basketball, wrestling, golf, baseball, tennis, and a rifle team. These sports played a vital role in shaping the character and camaraderie of the students.

Notable Alumni of St. John’s Military School

The legacy of St. John’s extended to its alumni, some of whom made a notable mark in their respective fields. Notable alumni include Mark Cerney, the founder of the Next of Kin Registry (NOKR) model, and Dean Hargrove, a television producer, writer, and director.

St. John’s Military School was a unique institution that aimed to shape young boys into leaders.


In conclusion, St. John’s Military School in Salina, Kansas, represents a multifaceted institution with a rich legacy of leadership, academic excellence, and challenges. For generations, it stood as a beacon for young male students, offering a unique “military environment” dedicated to nurturing discipline, honor, and character development.

The school’s remarkable success in the Annual Formal Inspection and impressive JROTC program underlined its commitment to fostering leadership among its students. The history of St. John’s was deeply rooted in its origins as an Episcopal boarding school, enriched by its ties to scouting and its resilience, even in the face of adversity.

However, alongside its achievements, St. John’s faced the shadow of abuse allegations, a chapter that marked a painful period in its history. Despite these difficulties, the school continued to uphold its dedication to academic standards, earning accreditations and memberships in prominent educational organizations.

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St. John’s Military School’s story is one of highs and lows, success and challenges, and a commitment to shaping young minds. Its notable alumni reflect its impact on individuals who made their mark worldwide. As we reflect on the institution’s history, we see a complex tapestry that includes honor and adversity, discipline and controversy, and, ultimately, its enduring influence on those who passed through its gates.

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