Encouraged by dialogue spawned by uniform debate

February 18, 2010 9:29:00 AM



I am saddened to read some of the online posts in response to the article in the Dispatch today about the open forum in Starkville. I appreciate the school board and Mrs. Couey for holding it, Mr. Buffington for moderating and everyone for attending. The forum was to allow the airing of opinions on the proposed uniform policy. I was hoping it would initiate a two-way dialogue and help the disagreement become more civil and more productive. There are a lot of assumptions made about the motives of the people against the uniforms and the motives of the school board. I can''t speak to anyone''s motives or experiences other than mine so I won''t. 


The overwhelming concern by most of us against uniforms is that our MS education budget has shrunk by about $170 million this year (this includes the $37 million our representatives voted to restore to the budget today) Uniforms for those who can''t afford them are going to be a major cost to a district that has real problems. We want to see this money put towards those problems -drop out rates, failing test scores, safety concerns, etc. Without a fiscal analysis of what a uniform policy will cost and a firm commitment from non-profits/donors to cover the cost, we are concerned about what this will mean to the SSD budget and where the money for uniforms will come from. Without clear benefits to changing the status quo, how can we justify the cost? 


In response to a couple of comments about not being involved, if this issue is what it took to wake people up and get them to realize we have big problems then that is great. I had no idea of the extent of our problems until this subject came up. As I said in my last letter I was asleep at the wheel. I have lots of reasons why-work, kids, illness, caring for sick relatives out-of-state, etc. but the fact is I wasn''t paying attention beyond being room mom or going on fieldtrips. The school board is there to keep an eye out and I appreciate their service to the district. I think they want the best for our children and our schools. However, we all have different ideas about how to achieve that. We have to work together on this and this entails a two-way dialogue. My hope is that it is respectful. Unfortunately passions run high sometimes and well-intentioned but sometimes misguided or inappropriate remarks and assumptions are made. 


It seems that this is as good a time as any to model for our kids how to disagree respectfully. 


I hope this whole ordeal strengthens our resolve to do better for our children as parents, educators, school board members and as a community. By this I mean better and more communication between the board and the community, respectful discourse and a full-on commitment to work together to help our schools and our children reach their potential.  


Jennifer K. L. Burgess, Starkville