By Marcella Peyre-Ferry
For 21st Century Media
OXFORD - The Oxford Area School Board held a special meeting on Aug. 29 to appoint three new assistant principals, but students and parents were there to complain about dress code enforcement and prohibitions on backpacks.
The school year has started with a new superintendent in the district and a new principal in the High School. It has also started with new rules on backpacks and old rules on clothing that were outlined in the student handbook, but not typically enforced.
“When we looked at hiring the current administrative staff we wanted to focus on people who would drive accountability and safety,” Board President Jason Brady said.
The dress code has parents and daughters complaining because the way it is being interpreted not only because it differs from what was allowed last year, but because the most popular and most available styles are banned.
Lacy shirts, even when worn over a tank top are banned, tank tops alone shorts don’t reach the fingertips of hanging arms, torn jeans, flip flop and all sandals are banned. While girls can wear their tennis or volleyball uniforms on the court in competition, they don’t meet the dress code to be worn in school.
“The dress code we inherited this summer was pretty vague,” Principal Christopher Dormer said. He also expects teachers to follow the same rules. “I’ve also drilled home with my faculty that they have to role model those things for the students.”
More room for change may come for students who have big complaints about the policy that lets them bring a backpack to school, but prohibits them from using it to carry books between classes.
With just a four minute break some students are getting to classes late, while others are on time only because they are carrying a day’s worth of books and binders loose in their arms. Students with advanced placement classes and athletes who have to sports gear in their lockers as well as books are among those who are being impacted the most.
High School Senior Steven Carbonara gave the Board a demonstration of the heavy stack of books he carries. “The morning is four to five binders at least and two or three text books. It’s just a really stressful situation ... I’ve seen people passing by in the hall way with more binders than me,” he said after the meeting. Carbonara thinks extra time between classes might help but he does not think it is a good solution. “I just want my backpack back, plain and simple.”
Eliminating backpacks in the halls is being done for safety, so that students will not be carrying contraband such as drugs, alcohol or guns. Parent Mary Ann Robinson pointed out to the board that the policy is not preventing anything from coming into the school in backpacks, and drugs can easily be carried in pockets or purses. “If the issue is in fact safety, I have not been presented any data that the banning of these back packs is necessary. Children will still bring drugs to our schools children will still get guns in,” she said.
Dormer stayed after the end of the board meeting to talk with audience members and assure them that he is looking for solutions. “I’ve asked them to try it out for seven days, then we’re going to survey them again and find out what they need to successfully implement those changes,” he said. “We feel maybe if we can put a little more time in it might give them the opportunity to get to their lockers a little more frequently.”
While he is open to changes, Dormer is committed to eliminating back packs. “We want a safe school, a productive school, where students dress appropriately and take school seriously,” he said.
Three new assistant principals appointed during the meeting are: Tami Motes who will serve at the High School at a 12 month salary of $90,000; Matthew Hovanecc at the Hopewell Elementary School for a 10 month salary of $75,000 and Lisa Vingst at the Nottingham School with a 10 month salary of $75,000. The board also appointed Gary Jones as the girls and boys soccer coach effective Aug. 29.