Janesville School District uncertain on dress code plan for teachers
A dress code for Janesville School District employees remains under development. The process will include the following.
-- The administration is looking for input from staff and the community. That input can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- The school board's Personnel, Policy and Curriculum Committee is expected to take up the matter at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Educational Services Center, 524 S. Franklin St.
JANESVILLE A proposal for a detailed dress code for Janesville School District staff created much discussion but no decision at Tuesday's meeting of the Janesville School Board.
The board's Kevin Murray said board members have been bombarded with comments since employees were sent a copy of the dress code proposal last week.
Ten employees attended a listening session before Tuesday's board meeting and made it clear they weren't happy with the proposal.
The issue is part of the district's larger effort to produce an employee handbook. The handbook would detail work rules and replace union contracts that run out next June.
Teachers union representative Ted Lewis, speaking at the listening session, said the process of developing a proposal, which then becomes public knowledge before employees have a chance to give input, isn't effective.
"It becomes a media spectacle. ... This is almost like negotiating through the media," Lewis said.
Lewis said the board should enter formal negotiations with the unions, something the board is unlikely to do before court challenges to the new state law on union contracts are settled.
Murray, who with Karl Dommershausen held the listening session, agreed the handbook process hasn't worked and said the board should rethink it.
"Maybe we should put the whole thing on the shelf," Murray said.
The board continued with the process at its meeting, however, with an extended discussion of health-insurance options. The board is avoiding any votes on any economic items in the handbook, however, until the law is settled.
Teachers at the listening session objected to the details included in the dress proposal, which calls for collared shirts, casual or dress slacks and skirts "of modest length." The proposal also lists a variety of no-nos, including certain tattoos, revealing clothing, denim of any color and any jewelry or other items deemed distracting.
"It's going to be a lot of work for them to enforce things of that nature," said Craig teacher Kari Alvarado.
Crystal Callison, a teacher at Parker High School, said everyone knows the four staff members who dress inappropriately, so it should be no problem for administrators to deal with them, rather than instituting a detailed dress code.
"I have to deal with the kids about the cleavage and the 'this' and the 'that,' and yet the principals don't have to approach a handful of people?" Callison said.
Murray asked if the teachers had been told about how they should dress when they were hired. They said no, although they recalled student teachers having to be admonished.
Teachers union President Dave Parr said after the session that the problem seems limited to a small group, "So why haven't these people been talked to? Why do they find this necessary?"
School board members David DiStefano and Bill Sodemann defended the proposal during the meeting.
DiStefano said he has seen a lot of employee handbooks in his job as a health insurance consultant, and this proposal is "moderate."
"I don't think it's asking too much to act like a professional. People in this district are role models," DiStefano said. "I think this is being blown completely out of proportion. It's just common sense, for the most part."
Sodemann said that whatever is permitted is promoted, so staff should set an example for students, who are being prepared for the business world.
The code would provide consistency among the various schools, Sodemann said.
Several board members called for a less detailed code. Deborah Schilling said the proposed language might lock the board into 2012 fashions and not account for future trends.
Peter Severson said expectations should be clear, but the proposal is too detailed, and it should be up to principals to handle specifics.
"We pay them a lot of money to supervise the staff. They should be able to handle the dress code," Severson said.
Board member Greg Ardrey said the requirement for collared shirts doesn't cover clothing he would consider acceptable, including a short-sleeved, V-neck shirt he was wearing.