By Eileen Kelliher
The Edmonds School Board last week decided to hold off on voting on a school district dress code policy revision until language is inserted that makes clear the board reserves the right to review and modify uniform policies.
The ability to adopt uniforms was requested by Cedar Valley and College Place Elementary school communities as a way to help families conserve funds. The Citizens Planning Committee talked to the principals and looked at other districts’ policies before recommended the wording to change to the board.
According to Assistant Superintendent Tony Byrd, the Citizens Planning Committee dealt only with policy and set aside implementation procedures for future development. When asked by board member Diane White what percentage of the parent/guardian community would have to agree before a uniform policy was adopted, Byrd estimated 75 percent. He stated that the adoption vote would go out in multiple languages through multiple media with a clear timeline. If a school adopted uniforms, it would need to form a committee that would be responsible for such things as a uniform assistance form for those families who needed financial help.
Superintendent Nick Brossoit pointed out that uniforms can take social pressures off students and families; however, by federal law, families can opt out if they wish. Byrd went on to say it is not a strict uniform, but rather something as simple such as khakis and a polo shirt, “nothing grander than that.” The board pointed out that Clothes for Kids, is dropping its opportunity for students to “shop” for donated clothing from twice a year to once.
Also addressed at the June 11 meeting:
– English Language Learner (ELL) Specialist Gretchen Fleming made a presentation to the board regarding the district’s expanding program, which is now in its second year. Seven out of eight secondary buildings proviide support for ELL students and it is a consistent model from building to building, which will align with the newly adopted Common Core. Fleming reported that they increased hours of ELL teaching at every elementary school. The district has also bolstered technology to strengthen English for immigrant students who speak some 80-plus different languages and is unveiling a class for incoming ELL kindergarteners.
– Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy also addressed the continuing exploration of alternatives to suspension as there is concern it falls disproportionately ethnic minority students. He has been polling surrounding districts on their programs in response to parents’ request to “keep my student engaged.” Board member Gary Noble said he appreciated the district’s exploration of this issue as “suspension is not an effective punishment and not consistent with our goals.” Murphy suggested that perhaps next year the Citizens Planning Committee could study ways to “keep our kids in school.”
– Murphy also explored the district’s current Student Resource Officer situation, given that budget cuts gutted the one-dedicated- officer-per-high-school arrangement that had been in place. Now the the district fully pays for an Student Resource Officer for only Lynwood High School. Mountlake Terrace police have dedicated an officer to each of the schools in their community in order to build relationships with the students. Snohomish County also tries to connect intentionally with the schools under its purview.
– The majority of the board feels that dogs should not be on school property during school hours due to such factors as allergies, distraction to studying students, and liability concerns if there were an injury. Brian Harding, Facilities Operations Director, brought this up to the board as the schools’ have requested clarity on this aspect of the animal policy. Brossoit requested that appropriate and respectful wording be prepared to go out for next fall so that families realize the policy has been clarified.
– David Endicott, Chair/CEO of Music4Life, presented to the board his organization’s mission to get an instrument in the hand of any music student who needs one and requested that Edmonds School District link with his group so that they can do this work for local students. Although this official Rotary project has several districts that they work with, “resources developed in Edmonds, stay in Edmonds,” said Endicott. School Board Chair Ann McMurray told Endicott that his group was filling a void and “I can’t thank you enough.” The Rotarian recalled that one gently used sterling silver flute donated to a Seattle student was playing at the presidential inauguration one month later.
– Scriber Lake Outdoor Education teacher Chris Brown used the public comment section of the evening to praise his student Brian Hernandez, who graduates from high school this year after extracting himself from years of a downward spiral into the gang/drug lifestyle. When other high schools expelled him and turned him away, Scriber Lake and Edmonds School District gave him a chance to set his life on a better course, according to Brown. Brian capped off his time in the Edmonds School District by mentoring a child in crisis at Westgate Elementary
– The board celebrated Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Tony Byrd, who is leaving the district to take a position in Everett after eleven years in the Edmonds district.
The board next meets on June 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Educational Services Center, 20420 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood.
School board contributing writer Eileen Kelliher served as a parent volunteer while her three children went through Seaview Elementary, Meadowdale Middle School, and Edmonds-Woodway High School. She works occasionally as a substitute classified employee for the Edmonds School District. www.linkedin.com/in/eileenmkelliher/