A committee of parents, students, faculty, and administrators was formed at Wednesday night’s North Bergen Board of Education meeting to examine the possibility of some sort of school uniform beginning next fall.
Other towns in Hudson County have begun requiring school uniforms, although the measure and the list of suggested vendors have proven controversial in some schools.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Dandorph said on Wednesday that he had been thinking about the possibility of installing a school uniform policy since his days as the principal at Kennedy Elementary School, and decided to explore the options with the formation of the committee.
“We’ve talked about it in the past and we just decided to move forward at this time,” Dandorph said. “I’ve done a lot of research into it and I have to thank the people in Union City for sharing their research with me.”
The Union City Board of Education instituted a school uniform policy two years ago. Secaucus and Bayonne followed suit. Some of the Jersey City high schools also implemented a policy.
“I spent two years researching the whole program and I really think it works,” Dandorph said. “The Union City Board of Education was so generous in sharing their information.”
Dandorph said that Kennedy School teacher Kathleen Fondy has been assisting him with the plan.
“We first discussed it with a few parents and they seemed responsive to the idea,” Dandorph said. “In a month or so, we’re going to try with one of the elementary schools to see if it can work. Once we work out the wrinkles, then we’ll see if we can implement it by September.”
Many positive results
Dandorph said that the school uniform would be simple, like the same color collared golf shirt and khaki pants.
“I think the uniform serves so many purposes,” Dandorph said. “It’s clean. There’s a safety value involved as well. You don’t get kids to wear the gang colors or the ridiculous clothes. There are just so many positive things.”
Dandorph said that he was ready for the complaints from parents, about cost and about suppressing the students’ freedom to wear what they want.
“They say that it might take away the students’ individuality of dressing,” Dandorph said. “There might be a slight bit of truth to that. But when kids are in uniform, studies say that their behavior changes. They act better. Kids should come to school to learn, not have a fashion show. It’s nice to not have to worry about how they’re dressed and then, education becomes a priority.”
Dandorph said that the exploratory committee will involve parents and students from each of the eight elementary schools and North Bergen High School.
“If there’s a consensus that it will work, then we’re going to try it as a pilot and see how it goes,” he said. “If the overall opinion is that it won’t work, then we won’t do it.”
Dandorph said that he was aware of the obstacles that neighboring districts encountered when implementing their uniform policies. For example, Bayonne had a tough time finding enough of the uniform shirts and pants. Another possible obstacle is the cost.
Dandorph said, “We also have to make sure that there are a few stores that will carry the clothes and will have the sizes needed. We can’t rely on just one distributor. But Gus Scerbo [of Secaucus] said once Secaucus got it started, it made things easier and safer and now everyone there likes it.”
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org