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School Officials Struggle To Define Faculty Dress Code

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – It is back to the drawing board for formulating a dress code for teachers in the Water Valley School District after school board members rejected a proposal from elementary school teachers during a May 18 meeting..

    The rejection came after Board President Ray Hawkins initially balked at several of the suggestions offered by the teacher, ultimately suggesting that the district had a bigger problem – the actual enforcement of the teacher’s dress code at the elementary school.

    Hawkins’ final recommendation was informally approved after he asked Superintendent Sammy Higdon to meet with principals Glenn Kitchens and Chester Drewery and formulate a dress code for all teacher. This suggestion surfaced after a 30-minute back-and-forth discussion about the dress code specifically for elementary school teachers.

    “We need a standard for the entire district,” Hawkins said.

    A decision adopting a new dress code for the elementary school had originally been postponed from the May 4 school board meeting after three elementary teachers, Alana Reed, Katie Naron and Trenesia Weekly presented board members with the teachers’ recommendations.

    The postponement after two board members were absent from the May 4 meeting.

    School attire has been a familiar topic at school board meetings throughout the school year. A petition handed to school officials at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year asking for a student uniform policy be implement prompted a thorough review of the subject that included input from students, teachers and parents. Uniforms for students was ultimately shot down during a November meeting, when school board members split 3 – 2 over the issue.

    Other business conducted at the May 18 meeting included:

    • Terminated the fifth grade band program following a recommendation from the district’s band director, Victor Steen. The current system gives fifth-graders and sixth-graders 30 minutes of instruction each day, but starting next year band students will be divided into two 30-minutes groups in the sixth grade only.

    “This will allow us to spend more time teaching with the sixth graders,” Steen said, adding the decision will ultimately make the program better.

    The topic then turned to the overall status of the band with Steen telling board members that the program will be geared up a notch or two during the coming school year.

    “This year has been better because I had an assistant, a super duber guy,” Steen said, responding to compliments from board members.

    Later in the meeting, board members accepted the resignation of that assistant band director, David Hopple. Higdon said Hopple was leaving the school to take care of his mother, who lives in northeast Mississippi.

    • Discussed state funding proposals for the 2009-2010 school year. Higdon showed three different plans, the House’s proposal which would appropriate $6,598,785 in state funding for the school district; the Senate’s proposal, which was $33,238 less than the House version; and the Governor’s proposal, which was $6,515,972.

    “It will probably be somewhere in the middle,” Higdon said.

    “We were originally expecting a four percent cut, right?” Cayce Washington asked.

    “Yes, that was before the stimulus funding,” Higdon answered, adding that the district could receive $159,000 more this year than last, based on the House’s plan. The superintendent said the district’s average daily attendance (A.D.A.) has increased, a figure that helped bring the district more money.

    “This means that breaking even is the worse-case scenario for us,” Higdon said.

    The district had braced for anticipated state cuts earlier this year, making cuts during 2008-2009 fiscal year and adding to those cuts for the 2009-2010 school year. The cuts ranged from teachers to athletics.

    • Accepted recommendations for employment including, Lauren Burgess as a substitute teacher for the remainder of the 2008-2009 school year and the 2009-2010 school year, Albert Horton was a part-time janitor, Keldrick Hooper and Lakisha Holmes as students maintenance workers, and Ruel Vaughn as a school bus driver.

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