PTO Meeting Continues the Controversial Uniform Discussion

Westside’s PTO held their monthly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, February 2nd.  Proceedings opened with the expected topics to address; business and budget. A brief discussion about the Westside Wishes program, which is up and running, but the business that was on most attendee’s minds was the implementation of a student uniform in the 2016-17 school year.

Principal Stewart began with the same Power Point presentation that was shown during the previous  Community Forum meeting.  She again made note of the challenges that are faced in  keeping Westside a safe and secure campus.  With 72 doors, 42 acres and only 2 security guards, monitoring is constantly being updated.  The building now has comprehensive camera coverage, anyone coming in the building must be buzzed in, this includes teachers, parents, and students alike.

The next step in this direction of safety and security will be student uniforms.  Principal Stewart introduced that the Westside SDMC, with a 13 – 2 margin voted in favor of requiring a student uniform of dress for all students next year.  She then indicated that while it was their vote, she agreed with their recommendation.  She did however acknowledge that “In retrospect, we should have had meetings to allow people to weigh in.”

A design team of  both pro and con participants will be convening soon.  Student leaders will be asked to participate, as well as students who are distinctly against the concept of unified dress requirements. Principal Stewart made it clear that the uniform would not be a fund raiser for the school or PTO, that items will be available at cost, and keeping the cost down is a priority.

The SDMC was asked to come forward, teachers in the room were introduced, and the subject was then opened for discussion.

The first parent to speak indicated that if security was an issue, the solution should be to hire more security personal.  He was adamant that having students in uniforms was not the answer to a campus security issue. Mrs. Stewart’s response was to restate again that the safety of the students comes first, and that even with more security personnel, and supervision, its impossible to be everywhere.

The room was growing more tense, parents were becoming less responsive to any comment being made.  “If its already decided, then why are we here?” “Why are we even discussing this?” “Waste of time.”

There were parents who spoke to the positive.  They felt that a uniform would level the playing field, and create a balanced atmosphere.  But the most vocal participants in the gathered audience were not in favor of this change.  Former Westside Principal,  Paul Castro, was emphatic “When I think about the kids, we aren’t engaging the kids in this enough.  It is too soon to raise this flag!”.   He then took own his kids and left.  Upping the tension in the room to a full 10.

Junior Raven Dugas spoke, as did freshman Mallori Sims.  Both were proud to be students at Westside, and both felt the need for student input.  They made good points about students having a voice. Neither made their preferences clear, but they absolutely made clear their desire to be a part of the process.  Mrs. Stewart agreed and thanked them for their involvement and passion.  She then reiterated that students would be involved in the decisions about what the uniform will be.

Associate Principal Barbara Neal, and Westside’s  Financial Manager Leah Blackwell turned the tables a bit and informed the parents that this issue has as much to do with our student population’s lack of consistency in following the current dress code. “You have no idea, unless you are here, what we go through everyday”.  They were bold, and made strong points that did get the attention of everybody in the room.

All present members of the SDMC spoke, all to the favor of uniforms.  They had different reasons, each bringing a new slant to the security conversation.

The meeting adjourned after only an hour.  But it was a long hour.