By Nash Dunn
O-N-E Staff Writer
The 1924 Courthouse in Newton may be one of Catawba County’s greatest antiques.
Walking into the stone courtroom on the second floor of the nearly 90-year-old building, I was slapped in the face by history that someone like me is too young to understand. Dusty and faded portraits of past judges lined every wall of the square-shaped chamber, casting a ghastly and ever-lasting eye over any occupant who entered into their former governing quarters. There were wooden chairs everywhere. Not haphazardly placed or strewn about, but perfectly rowed and secured by curvy steel once melted and bent by a skilled tradesman or blacksmith nearly a century ago.
With all this history surrounding me, it’s easy to understand how the Newton-Conover City Schools Board’s Dell laptops and tangled power cords at the front of the courtroom stood out like a sore thumb.
I had not been to a school board meeting yet, but I figured it would follow the same routine as the other government meetings that frequent the area — a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and then nonchalant discussion about issues that have a profound impact on people’s lives.
For the most part, my guess was correct.
There was a prayer, a recitation of the Pledge and a brief “summary” of the 12 NCCS teacher assistants that will either be fired or laid off next year. The only other member of the crowd, NCCS personnel director Sylvia White, also piped up during the “short update” to note that two Career Technical Education full-time teachers would also be losing their jobs.
Other than some other two- to three-sentence clarification statements from NCCS Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond about his personal evaluation, the short and minor agenda items were out of the way.
Now, with the updates and clarifications behind them, the board could move on to the heavy-hitting and cumbersome discussion topic — dress codes for elementary school students.
Clearly an issue that is vitally important to a student’s ability to learn, process and comprehend information, the dress code discussion was not just another burdensome agenda item. The board took their time to debate the pros and cons of having 5- and 8-year-olds wear nearly the same thing to school every day and spent almost an hour discussing the possible change.
The discussion was not casual either. The board members became pretty heated.
I believe it was board member Jim Stockner that slammed his fist on the table when he said, “It’s cheaper for parents to do this than go buy all the designer clothes kids want.”
Stockner’s comment made me chuckle out loud. The image of a kindergartner begging mommy for new Prada heels or a Ralph Lauren polo shirt is simply amusing.
Despite concerning comments from board members Betty Coulter and Scott Loudermelt about the dress code, the board unanimously approved the uniforms to go into effect next school year.
Wow, what a success. I mean, this is clearly an improvement.
Now, next year’s NCCS elementary school students can wake up every day and put on their favorite white or black polo shirt with their nicest pair of khaki slacks. Students can walk the halls in grayscale and assimilated style, a type of creativity that will surely filter down to art class. That’s assuming, of course, that there will be enough teachers around to have art class.
Sure, their attire will change, but parents can rest assure that the schooling will not. Now, when students are forced to memorize multiplication tables and foreign languages only to spit it back out later on an End of Grade test, they will be doing it looking like all their other classmates.
So later, when they have a real job, they can continue to dress like the rest of society and forget all the information they were forced to take in, spit back out, and soon forget to the hustle and bustle of the American education phenomenon.
Nash Dunn is a reporter and columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the Wednesday edition of The O-N-E. Reach Dunn at email@example.com .