Rules and dress code requirements for the new theme schools at Fairview Elementary and Clements Middle schools were approved unanimously by all board members present at Tuesday night’s work session for the Newton County Board of Education, allowing principals to distribute the strict parent contract and dress code for the 2009-2010 school year to parents.
After meeting several times with the theme school committee and the parent advisory council for the two schools, the group adopted what it felt was a fair contract for parents to sign. The dress code requires students to wear a uniform that is more stringent than that of other Newton County schools.
The contract requires parents to volunteer a total of 20 hours (10 hours each semester) at the school, enforce reading outside of school for 15-30 minutes per day and "strictly enforce the system’s and the school’s conduct codes and policies," which includes working with the school for disciplinary problems, should they arise, and enforcing the dress code.
According to Dr. Jill Adams, the principal for the intermediate theme school, located at Clements Middle School and containing grades four through eight, parents were concerned with what would be done by administrators should there be an issue with disruptive students in the theme school, an issue they addressed in one of the rules, asking parents to enforce the school’s rules.
"I think that when you’re asking parents to sign something saying they will adhere to the dress code, what happens when they don’t?" questioned board member Dr. C.C. Bates.
"I think my biggest concern is that there are some teeth in it, I guess. That these rules are going to be enforced."
Both Adams and primary theme school principal, Dr. Ruth Anne Smith, assured the board that they had every intention of making sure that codes and rules were followed by theme school students. The contract that parents are asked to sign specifically states "failure to abide by this contract will terminate a student’s right to attend the theme school."
Uniform requirements are similar to those that are in place at other Newton County schools such as Heard-Mixon and Ficquett Elementary schools.
Shirts must be collared and red, white or navy blue with no logos, shoes must be clean and white, black or brown, with no open toes or heels. Certain shoes are prohibited, including several types of boots (Uggs, work boots, above the calf boots and those with greater than a one-inch heel).
Sweaters and sweatshirts must be navy blue and have no logos except for the school logo, outerwear (coats) can be any color, but solid navy is preferred, and it can be worn only outside the building.
Board member Almond Turner voiced his concerns over penalizing students for dress code infractions – especially those in the primary theme school.
"The students aren’t really responsible, that’s the parent’s responsibility. I would hate for a child who is performing well with this format for this opportunity to be taken away because the parents did not adhere to the contract. Do we have anything in place," he asked, "to have conferences with the parents to make them understand [if they are not adhering to the contract] that it’s just hurting the child?"
Adams said that the principals had decided that the first two times a child is not in uniform a warning letter will be sent home and the third infraction requires a parent conference.
"Parents are made aware that they jeopardize their child’s involvement in the theme school if they don’t follow their end of the rules," said Adams. "Our goal is not to put the child out – because that’s demotivating [discouraging] for the child – the goal is to help the child be successful."
The board members present agreed that the contract and dress code should be approved so the information could be sent to parents of theme school students as soon as possible. Board members agreed to stand behind the contract as a district.