Friday, May 18, 2018

Pottstown School Board Nixes Uniform Policy

I would like to pretend that the news readers care the most about from last night's budget was the adoption of a budget that hikes taxes 3.5 percent; or the naming of the Teacher of the Year for the Pottstown School District, but I would only be fooling myself.

The big news was not even on the agenda.

After more than 90 minutes of the usual school board antics, Emanuel Wilkerson brought up his favorite subject; the one that got him elected to the school board when he was still a high school senior and the subject, if last night was any indication, on which can wax on for quite some time.

Yep, you guessed right folks, it's school uniforms.

But here's the news part.

They made a decision.

Two of them.

Both of them unanimous.

Are we done with subject?


Please, please please?

Board unanimity on the matter made Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez happy. Before the vote, he said the administration would carry out whatever policy the board decided best, but he implored them to be decisive.

"If you do this with a 5-4 vote now and then change your mind in June, you're really going to knee-jerk the district," he said.

Wilkerson's first motion was was take the dress code now in place at the high school -- which is technically "temporary" -- and make it permanent.

That passed unanimously.

The second motion, which was a bit trickier, would remove the school uniform requirements in the middle and elementary schools. It also charged the board's policy committee to come up with a comprehensive, "professional" dress code in time for the start of school in August.

Raymond Rose and Bonita Barnhill were the only board members to express a fondness for the uniforms, but Barnhill said she recognized it could be a financial burden and given the board had passed a tax hike earlier in the evening, decided to try to lessen the financial burden on parents.

Both Wilkerson and Vice President Katina Bearden said the issue had been discussed to death.

"It's been on the agenda ad nauseum," said Bearden, perhaps riffing on the irony that a matter of this magnitude was in fact, not on that night's board agenda.

"Our concern should be that the students are properly clothed, not what color shirts they wear. Our job is to give them the education that they need," Bearden said.

Parent Clinton Bradshaw told the board that the school uniform "carries a stigma. It is not very empowering for students when the neighboring school districts don't have them."

David Miller, who ran for the board and applied for the board seat made open by the resignation of Ron Williams, had the opposite view. He said the uniforms kept bullying down and instilled a sense of pride in the district.

Board President Amy Francis, who spearheaded the effort to establish the uniform policy in 2008, said she had done so with a desire to improve the district. At the time, she also touted the ability of uniforms to cut down on school violence.

However, she said, the issue had also dogged her through her many years on the board. "Different times," she said, adding "I'll be happy to have this issue decided."

And so it was.

We'll have coverage of the budget adoption and Teachers of the Year either in The Mercury or later here as neither topic deserves to be overshadowed by this silliness.

Here are the Tweets from the meeting.

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