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Schools To Seek Uniform Input

Lamar Burgess

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – School uniforms are back on the table as a possibility for the 2015-2016 school year.
But, school board members want to gather public opinion before making a decision – much like they did with a survey and public forum held six years ago in the fall of 2008.
Monday night school board president Lamar Burgess said that he continues to receive questions regarding uniforms. “What I am suggesting is not for the current school year,” he emphasized and asked that the district investigate if school uniforms are desired by the community.
“We have an opportunity to put it to rest as far as I am concerned,” Burgess continued. “I would like for our children and our parents to quit competing with clothing. I pray that our students and our parents – at least at the elementary school – would place more emphasis on learning.”
Burgess also noted that parents are spending many hundreds of dollars on clothing when some uniform stores are offering five sets for as little as $60. “That would be a considerable savings for any parent.”
“I would like to give the community an opportunity to have an input, hopefully by the newspaper or through the school,” he said.
The board president put most of the emphasis on the elementary school because he believes that is the most critical place. “If we can’t get them successful at the elementary school, I don’t think we are going to have very much greater success at the high school.”
Burgess added that he hopes that uniforms would have an impact at the elementary school that could be tied in with the daycare centers and Head Start. He suggested that parents might want to get their children in their last year of daycare to identify with the elementary school by adopting the school uniform.
Trustee Casey Washington said that competing with clothing is probably more prevalent at the high school level. “For me as an individual board member, as a member of the community with a student in the district, I would be more inclined if we do it, we do it across the board both grammar school and high school. That’s my personal feeling.”
“And the teachers and the administrators,” added Taylor Trusty, joining the discussion. “That’s my personal opinion.”
“…and board members. I’m okay with that,” Washington added.
After several more minutes of discussion, Burgess asked if there was a motion to seek public input for a uniform policy for the 15-16 school year. Washington made the motion and after a few moments, a second was made by trustee Bryan Gilley.
When Burgess called for all in favor, Washington and Gilley raised their hands and then trustee Pierce Epes joined them. He said that he would go along “with seeing what the input is.”
Trusty cast the dissenting vote.
Superintendent Kim Chrestman asked if it was his charge to seek input from faculty, staff, parents and administration.
A community survey was done in 2008 and solicited comments from parents, teachers, staff, students and members of the community. Just the comments filled 47 single-spaced typed pages when the results were compiled.
The survey was presented at a community forum in September of that year by then Superintendent Sammy Higdon. The basic figures from the survey showed that parents were for student uniforms by 57 percent while students were against uniforms by 58 percent.  Among the teaching staff, 67 percent were for student uniforms.
Of the parents who responded, 44 percent were for teachers wearing uniforms while 16 percent had no opinion. Of the teachers in both high school and elementary, 56 percent were against teachers wearing uniforms while 16 percent had no opinion.

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