The Bryan County Board of Education held a called meeting Wednesday to talk about the budget.
They wound up discussing two of the hottest issues in the county – school uniforms and out-of-state travel.
By the time the meeting ended, the uniform policy was taken off the table and board members had asked their attorney to find them a way to let kids travel out of state.
Vice Chairman Frances Meeks made a request to add the uniform policy to the agenda of the next regular BoE meeting, which is May 24 at Carver Elementary.
The matter was tabled last week in a 4-3 vote with four members voting to table the policy and three voting to approve it.
Several principals spoke out in favor of the policy at Wednesday’s meeting, saying it would help them in controlling inappropriate clothing students wear, allowing them more time to dedicate to curriculum.
School Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer and principals conducted a secret ballot, polling teachers in the district and the results were as follows: 73 percent (302) voted in favor of a uniform policy while 27 percent (113) voted against it.
In the discussion following Meeks’ request, board member Jeff Morton was the sole member asking to keep it tabled. BoE Chairman Eddie Warren did not say one way or the other.
"Most people are under the assumption that the policy was put off until the 2008-2009 school year," Morton said. "We need more time to gather input from the community. It doesn’t need to be rushed. If parents and administration want this policy, then we should institute it, but it needs to be done right."
Morton spoke of the dilemma involving the deciding vote taking place after school is out of session. He also talked about the fact that, if it is approved on May 24, parents will have a relatively short period of time to attain all the required clothing and may be faced with supply and demand shortages when trying to purchase the approved wear.
Board member Joe Pecenka, who voted in favor of tabling the policy at last week’s regular meeting, said he is considering approving the policy based on the new information regarding faculty.
"Some of the questions that the faculty addressed may have changed my opinion," said Pecenka. "A condition of my agreeing to the concept of putting the policy back on agenda this soon is for Dr. Brewer and administration to come up with a proposed policy and put it out immediately and make it available until the meeting on the 24th. I’d like to see the proposed policy printed in the newspaper, sent home with students and to also encourage feedback."
Pecenka said he realizes that all the different variations of styles requested could never all be met, but he is not focused on that, looking instead at the educational impact of clothing.
"I think the purpose of redrafting the policy after the last board meeting is to draft one that would be most likely to improve the educational environment and one that makes the most sense to help faculty focus on curriculum," Pecenka said.
Another hot topic was sovereign immunity and the current inability for Bryan County students to travel out of state.
Resulting from a meeting agenda item introduced by BoE Chairman Eddie Warren, the majority of board members gave their blessing to board attorney Gerald Edenfield to look into sovereign immunity in regard to the out-of-state travel dilemma.
Morton made the first motion in favor of this and said he advocates students being able to travel out of state. He brought up the fact that neighboring Chatham County just sent a jazz band to San Francisco and also just paid for five Odysssey of the Mind teams to travel to the state competition in Michigan.
"Other school system attorneys have approved out of state travel, so there must be a way to achieve this," Morton said.
He added that he is advocating travel on strictly a limited basis, such as if a team earns the right to further a competition, and to where it would of little liability to the board. He states that he and other board members are challenging Edenfield to come up with a way for kids to travel that may include added insurance waivers or carriers.
"I think we have reached a point where we desperately need Mr. Edenfield to research all of the options and make a list of requirements to minimize risk," Pecenka said. "I would like the board to review the list and take a vote on whether or not to allow out of state travel. It is most likely that the board would have to allow such travel on a case-by-case basis, if at all. I do believe that we need to research all options to try to make that happen."
"Regardless of the way this turns out, I’m pleased with the fact that (BoE Chairman) Eddie Warren is holding true to his promise to look into this matter and it’s encouraging to see that he is looking out for the best interests of the tax payers," said RHHS band booster president Craig Klebe, a known advocate for Bryan students to travel out of state.
As for the budget presentation, BoE Finance Director made a preliminary presentation with the final budget to be be presented in June.