Fort Worth administrators seek changes to dress code

FORT WORTH -- School administrators are recommending that trustees change district policy on the hot-button issue of school uniforms, a move that would give schools the right to choose what students wear.

Administrators want to amend district policy to allow uniforms for the new all-girls academy, which opens next school year to sixth- and seventh-graders. However, the policy could open the door for other schools to do so -- without seeking feedback from parents.

"There are no plans to put uniforms anywhere else," spokesman Clint Bond said. He said details of how the policy would work are still being determined.

The item is listed for adoption under the consent agenda, which consists of numerous items that are usually adopted in one motion without discussion.

Fort Worth principals can opt for uniforms after receiving input from a campus-based committee and surveying parents and teachers, with at least 51 percent responding and more than half of respondents favoring uniforms.

Because the new Young Women's Leadership Academy does not yet have students or staff, officials wanted the option of uniforms, Bond said. Principal Mia Hall has said she hoped to have uniforms that include plaid prints.

The school district has a standardized dress code in which students must wear the same style of clothing, but not uniforms. In pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, students must wear pants, skirts or other bottoms in navy, black, khaki or denim; shirts must be collared in navy or white.

High school students can wear collared (polo or oxford) shirts or blouses, mock turtlenecks or turtlenecks in any color, though they must have sleeves and be tucked in. T-shirts cannot be worn as outer clothing in general.

In 2008, trustees voted to allow five high schools in the district's Public Educators Accelerating Kids program to opt for a uniform policy decided by campus administrators, faculty and staff, though none of those schools decided to do so.

State law requires that districts have some funding available to provide uniforms for students in need.

In other business

Trustees will discuss whether to hire an outside auditor to look into the district's payroll conversion, though they will not vote on the matter. After switching payroll software, the district had glitches that led to $1.5 million in overpayments to employees and, in some cases, former employees who had not worked for the district in years. An internal auditor found that the payroll system lacked proper controls, was cumbersome and inconsistent, and included manual paper entries that led to human error. That auditor, Sherman Harris, retired last month, and trustees are considering his replacement tonight. District officials have said many issues found in the internal auditor's report have been corrected.

School officials will discuss projected revenue for the next fiscal year. Officials have said they expect a shortfall of about $28 million in 2010-11. Trustees cut about $15 million going into this fiscal year, including eliminating about 100 positions, mostly campus monitors, and trimming the adult education program. Officials are also considering closing small schools to save money.

EVA-MARIE AYALA, 817-390-7700