Tuesday, April 10, 2007

SSA passes

I was watching the proceedings via the Internet and so couldn't tell exactly who but there were two no votes (most likely Mark North and David Fox). If I heard correctly the motion for SSA offered by District 5 Board Member Gracie Porter was that they were authorizing SSA for 3 years (07-08, 08-09 and 09-10). After two years an individual or a school could opt out after providing written documentation on why they wanted to opt out. Said document would have input from the parent(s), teachers and principal. It would be presented to the Superintendent of Schools (Dr. Garcia currently) for their decision with the option of an appeal before the entire BOE. After 3 years the BOE would consider reauthorization of SSA.

Quotes from the more than 2 hours of public comment and nearly 2 hours of board comments:

One mother expressed her disappointment in parents that would be willing to sue the district in order to get their way pointing out the money spent in those suits could be put to better use.

Another stated that SSA had been a 'gift from God' in that life in their home was a great deal easier with SSA. She further expressed that SSA would bring unity to the system and told anti-SSA parents that it wasn't just about you and your children.

A woman professing to be a doctor, single and with children in both a magnet and zoned schools lamented the cost she would incur because her washer/dryer is broke and she's discovered that the laundromat is a more efficient way to do family wash. She'd have to buy 18 sets of clothing to 'tide' them over from wash day to wash day.

Anti-SSA proponent and student Charles Badger felt the need to go "Matlock" on the BOE and while dressed in a suit and tie pulled out toy numchucks from his coat to demonstrate that even compliance with SSA didn't ensure that weapons couldn't be concealed.

One parent said there should be no religious exemptions from SSA if it passes.

Julie Lamb, PAC president said that she had joined the SSA Study Committee when she realized that the two parents already on the committee were against the suggestion. She further stated that this was a parental issue for the adults to handle.

A woman who had attended Hume-Fogg provided her own testimony of her treatment at Hume-Fogg as a student that couldn't afford the clothing many of her fellow students were wearing and welcomes SSA. Further she expressed hope that SSA means when her young child is ready for school MNPS will then be a place she feels more comfortable about having them attend.

Stratford Principal Brenda Elliot-Johnson reminded us in her comments in support of SSA that it's the job of the community to support the schools and not the other way around.

Nashville School of the Arts students presented petitions against the SSA signed by their students and then serenaded the board with a 'what does it mean' lyric.

A girl who is a student representative on the BOE spoke correctly when she said the students had brought this on themselves.

I'm convinced that if students had not insisted on their freedom to exceed societal conventions by such a great degree this effort wouldn't have been attempted. Mark North was right in saying that every older generation hasn't understood the fashions of the younger generations. But it's not bobbed hair or exposed ankles that brought us to SSA. It's cleavage, exposed midriffs and underwear. We're tired of clearly seeing whether it's boxers or briefs.

It had been alleged that the line up of speakers was stacked with the anti's at the beginning and the pro's at the end. Such wasn't really the case. The points of view moved back and forth regularly. It was true that the final speakers, being principals and central office personnel, to include Superintendent Dr. Garcia, were the final speakers. Dr. Garcia reminded us that principals had come to him and asked for SSA. That's probably what finally brought about this yes vote. When the people you hire to run the system tell you they want this tool and there is no compelling reason to say no you need to accommodate them.

After 2 hours of testimony groans were easily heard from the audience when District 5 Board Representative Gracie Porter immediately moved that the vote on SSA be deferred until a written legal opinion of the proposal as written could be provided to the BOE. No one wanted that sort of delay.

Thankfully, Chair Marsha Warden asked John Michael of Metro Legal to take the podium and answer BOE member questions.

Mr. Michael answered the hypothetical question about whether the policy is on its face illegal. His answer was no. Could the policy be subject to legal challenge? Certainly, he responded, "as could any action or non-action of the board."

There was some discussion about those who would assert a conscientious objection to the policy. Dr. Garcia asked if a CO would have to walk that on their own time in order for it to be valid at school. The meaning apparently that if they object to khaki's and polos at school and they wear them on their own time to, for example at the movies, would that invalidate their CO assertion. The legal opinion was probably not.

Dr. Garcia related that he was kind of caught in the middle regarding presenting any sort of policy to the BOE for them to vote on. He mostly wanted an up or down yes or no vote. But he expected that the BOE would want more specifics. He also suspected that the specifics wouldn't be the final version of the policy. He was adamant that he intended that the policy encompass K-12 and every Metro school.

BOE Member Steve Glover made the comment that according to the policy governance form of running MNPS it was Dr. Garcia's call to implement this and not really the Board's responsibility.

New board member Mark North had a long statement regarding the concerns he had about the process, not having a formal, written legal opinion, the use of the term SSA v. uniforms, the marketing of SSA, and the potential skewing of the dress code violations numbers as a result of the recent crackdown that might provide bad data when we look back at the success or failure of SSA.

BOE member Ed Kindall brought some common sense to the discussion when he said SSA wasn't going to kill or hurt anybody. As a criminal attorney he believes this will impact gang activity in the schools.

BOE member Karen Johnson got quite emotional. For her it came down to a matter of respect for the leadership of the schools. She sees a separateness in the system between the magnet and zoned students which has created a privileged group of people and then those who can't get into the magnet system. She sees this as a way to meet the need to level the playing field and respect the principals at the same time.

BOE member David Fox had a long statement which he appeared to be reading. He started by saying it seemed the effort was more of a no confidence vote toward principals than anything else. I had to step away but I wouldn't be surprised if he was a no vote.

And despite Ed Kindall's joking attempt to keep Chair Marsha Warden from getting her two cents in (and everyone needed a bit of levity after all this time) she did manage to state clearly that the principals have asked for SSA and we should give them what they ask for. She also spoke directly to some parents in the audience saying that the magnet parents are the most vocal and involved parents with the most assets and asked for their help in this effort.

Hopefully, they'll rethink the threats of lawsuits and work toward unifying the system as several speakers mentioned needed to be done. Though no doubt, several will 'get religion' and once again demonstrate a separateness from the rest of the public school population.

And so here we are. It's coming. I fully expect that in the morning retail clothing buyers across the city will be calling Metro for specifics about the policy, such as it is, and then calling their corporate headquarters saying"Send us khaki and polos". By summer the shelves should be fully stocked and by fall families and the community should be quite used to the new routine and look of MNPS students.

UPDATE: The two no votes were David Fox (new to the BOE as of August) and Mark North, brand spanking new that night replacing Pam Garrett.


Wendy said...

We've already established some clothes closets for a few schools and we will as a community be setting up more. Whether or not the BOE had voted yes or no on SSA, we needed to do this for some of our students.

I'm so thankful that I have had the opportunity to meet parents, students, teachers, and principals from other schools and to be able to be united in providing the best educational opportunity for all students. Had SSA never come up in the discussions, I would have never known of some of the plight of our needy children.

My hope is that more neighborhood associations and schools work together the way Inglewood & Litton have and the way East Nashville & Lockeland have.


Nashteach said...

Our 5-year-old son is excited. We told him and he grinned the biggest grin and then he asked "Can I wear my suit?"


Kay Brooks said...

LOL. :-)

misedjj said...

And what next, prom dress codes no doubt? :)