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Wardrobe changing at Magnet School

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / May 11, 1998

RESERVE – Students at Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet Schoolwon’t have to worry about groggily matching pieces of their wardrobe in the morning next year.

Starting in the fall, students will wear new uniforms. Principal MikeCoburn made the request, and St. John the Baptist Parish School Boardmembers approved the mandatory uniforms at the school next year in a 10-1 vote.

Coburn said uniforms would improve campus safety and security and take away label status.

“We want to bring everyone together,” Coburn said. “We are a schoolwithin a school. We have school for academic reasons, not to see howmuch your pants cost.”Superintendent Cleveland Farlough agreed with Coburn and recommended that the board support his request.

“Uniforms make a campus safe and more secure by eliminating gang- related clothes that may be baggy and used to conceal contraband,” Farlough said. “And it sets the tone for a good educational environment.”School board policy requires that if a public school wishes to have mandatory uniforms, parents have to be asked their opinion and the school can only request it if a majority wants the uniforms.

The parents have been knowing about it for six months,Coburn said, adding that three public forums on the idea were held to give parents an opportunity to express their opinions.

“Only one parent was in opposition out of about 150,” Coburn said.

But he didn’t stop there. Determined to have uniforms at the school,Coburn did his homework. He also surveyed teachers. Out of 61 faculty andstaff members, 57 wanted students to wear uniforms next year.

He also sent 479 letters home with students, asking for parents’ opinions in case they couldn’t make it to the forum. Out of 479 letters to parents,396 responded that they wanted uniforms, 19 didn’t want them and 64 didn’t reply.

In counting the 64 that didn’t reply as no’s, Coburn said that an overwhelming 96 percent of the parents wanted uniforms for their children.

Coburn has already talked to several vendors and found out some prices of the uniforms. He said that they cost $70 for the smallest child, up to $125for the largest, for three uniforms. “Schools that have them say that threeis sufficient for the entire year,” he said.

Russ Wise, referring to his 6-year-old son, said there is no way that would be enough uniforms.

“Around my house, my friend, we do laundry once a week,” he said to Coburn.

Coburn replied that for economical purposes and according to other school officials that have uniforms at their school, three is sufficient.

Wendy Boldizar, president of the St. John Association of Educators, hasconcerns about the cost.

“I would hate to see a child disciplined if their parent don’t get them a uniform,” she said.

Coburn said he has already asked several local businesses to sponsor scholarship programs for needy students, and they have agreed.

Felix “Pappy” LeBouef made a motion to accept Coburn’s request for mandatory uniforms, which was seconded by Wise.

C.J. Watkins questioned the motion, saying the board not over two hoursearlier adopted a policy revision declaring board members can’t vote on topics such as this on the night they are presented.

Ory made a motion to waive the newly-adopted policy. His motion wasseconded by LeBouef.

Board members agreed to waive policy 11-0, And uniforms were accepted in a 10-1 vote, with Watkins voting against it.

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