Waterloo Board of Education tackles several hot topics - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo Board of Education tackles several hot topics

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Monday night the Waterloo Board of Education spent three hours discussing several important issues. The board took action on two major items -- district finances and the future of Black Hawk Elementary.

The board approved next year's budget. They said it's better than they expected, and does not raise property taxes.

They also voted unanimously to close Black Hawk Elementary after this school year, and combine the kids with Edison Elementary. The superintendent said they cannot fit all the kids into Edison without making changes to the building. Which makes changes to the district's elementary boundaries even more crucial. The board is meeting for a work session on the proposed boundary changes Tuesday night at 5:30.

But the first issue on Monday night's agenda was the controversial subject of school uniforms. The board does not expect to mandate uniforms for the 2010-2011 school year. But they did ask for a report by June 1st on the positive and negative outcomes of uniforms in Waterloo schools. They're not referring to them as uniforms, instead as a restricted dress code.

Some parents say, call it what you want - to them, it sounds like the district is overstepping its authority. Deidre Shea and Matt Sprengeler always considered themselves involved parents. But they were never really the type to attend school board meetings, and definitely did not expect to launch campaign against a proposed policy change.

"We decided this was the final straw, it was time we made sure we were being heard. So we're here to be heard," said Sprengeler.

There was no public input at Monday night's work session on district-wide uniforms. But, Shea and Sprengeler were there to listen, and learn what kind of information the school board is hearing.

"Uniforms can mislead parents, administrators, and occasionally even students as to what's really going on in the schools. They're bright and colorful and they look pretty. But they're a coat of paint on a building. If there's something wrong with the building, a coat of paint isn't going to fix it," said Sprengeler.

Administrators believe, uniforms do, and will fix many of the problems in Waterloo schools.

"Because I'm at Cunningham, definitely I'm a supporter of school uniforms for the climate, the environment," said Cunningham Elementary Principal Elizabeth Crowley.

Principals from both East and West High School said the majority of their staff members are in favor of a restricted dress code. If kids are required to wear polo's and slacks, like the youngsters at Cunningham, telling a student they're dressed inappropriately is a cut and dry issue. But Shea and Sprengeler believe uniforms are not the answer -- better parenting is.

"It is our job as parents to do that. It is not the district's job to be trying to parent for us. To be coming into our home and rummaging through our closets and deciding what our kids can and cannot wear. We'll take care of that," said Sprengeler.

Shea and Sprengeler are creating a website for parents to give their feedback to the school board. They don't think the district is deliberately ignoring them, but say, there can never be too much input from parents. Click here to view their site.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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