Board modifies school dress code
By Julleanna Outten
During a workshop meeting of the Woodbridge School Board Tuesday, June 5, members discussed dress codes, grading policies, the Cops in Schools program, trash services and the upcoming year's budget.
In addressing the dress code, superintendent Dr. Kevin E. Carson said that it is important to ensure that students dress is appropriate and is not distracting to other students.
The board voted to add to school policy a requirement that the hems of shorts and skirts reach the fingertips, when arms are extended down. The dress code also now dictates that jackets not be worn in classrooms and that pants be worn at the natural waistline.
Board members debated over whether to require that shirts be tucked in.
"Do we want to spend time and effort in enforcing this?" principal Barry Cooper asked. He added it would probably be wiser to instead spend time and effort enforcing more sound things. Others shared his concern on how difficult it would be to enforce that policy. The board agreed not to add such a requirement to the dress code.
John H. Parker Jr., high school assistant principal, said that he has done a lot of research on school dress codes. He did a report on a school in one of the poorest parts of Birmingham, Ala., that went from having one of the lowest test rates to one of the highest after building a new school and having students wear uniforms.
Parker suggested a uniform of khaki pants and a navy shirt as a possible solution to the problem of appropriate dress.
Others at the meeting supported the idea of a uniform. But any such change would require at least a year's notice.
Another hot topic was the grading policy. This past year the district had a "hold harmless" policy that was intended to aid struggling students by giving them a minimum grade of 50 percent for each term of the year no matter how poorly they did. But because some students abused the policy, the board decided to change it. Now the 50 percent minimum will only apply to the first half of the year or first term, depending on how long the class lasts. In the second half of the year or term, students will receive the grades they earned.
The board felt that the 50 percent minimum is a small "safety net" to keep struggling students, especially freshmen, from giving up if they feel they have no hope of passing. Members said, however, that grades are not everything in determining a student's abilities. For example, Michelle Cook, a high school teacher, worked hard with several at-risk students to help them design and present a web page that they were proud of.
When discussion came to the budget, the room quieted as Carson read the details for the preliminary fiscal year's budget and how it will be a wash budget with no increase. The district experienced a net loss of $76,000 this year and will not be receiving $382,490 from the state because the state requires a financial "effort level" that was not met.
Passage of the recent current expense referendum, which failed by 40 votes, would have allowed the district to meet that "effort level" and receive the extra state funding. Carson said that it has been 14 years since the last tax increase for the district.
"We're struggling to break even," Carson said. The district has had to cut out almost all of its middle school athletic programs and has not been able to increase staff wages.
Carson and a busload of students, teachers and parents went to Dover Downs last Sunday, to clean up after the NASCAR races. In doing so, they earned $1,300 for next year's prom.
The district will be able to save some money this year by changing their trash services to Waste Management. The company will provide services for nearly $6,000 less than the district paid last year.
As for the Cops in Schools Program, the question was whether to apply for the program or not. The program would have a police officer in the elementary school working with the students. But because the school already has an officer in the building, a DARE program and not enough money to finance the program, the board decided not to go through with the application.
Vanderwende land protected
William and Ellen Vanderwende of Bridgeville have committed 300 acres of their farmland to Delaware's agricultural future. The settlement by the Vanderwendes brings Delaware's total amount of permanently protected farmland to 50,000 acres.
The 300 acres is part of the 18,000 acres selected for Round Five easement purchases by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. Another 10,000 acres is still awaiting settlement.
Bill and Ellen Vanderwende have permanently protected five of their seven farms totaling more than 1,300 acres. The other two farms have not been selected for easement purchase.
"We want to keep our land in agriculture and protect agriculture in the State of Delaware," Bill Vanderwende said. "I want my children and grandchildren to have an opportunity to live and work on a farm if they choose. We have four children of our own who are interested in agriculture. Our family has been farming in Delaware for more than 100 years."
The family has 11 farms enrolled in the program, totaling 1,800 acres.
At the settlement, Michael Scuse, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture, said, "I think it is nice that one of Sussex County's prominent farm families has participated so extensively in the program. They recognize the importance of protecting our farmland for future generations, of not only their large family, but for all Delawareans."