Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 9, 2000

LP board debates staff uniforms, badges

By Jane Otto

"I'm a grandparent who came for "Grandparents' Day" and have never been inside this building before. I've hit two doors so far that were locked because I didn't know which door was the main office door. A badge will tell me that this person is probably a staff member at this school and I could probably ask him a question. He isn't another grandparent who is also wandering the hall."

This scenario Lester Prairie Board Member Nancy Krull cited as a reason for making the school more "user-friendly" at Tuesday's school board meeting

Though no decision was reached, much discussion ensued as to whether or not staff should wear identification badges or some type of uniform.

The topic was initially broached when the board considered the purchase of shirts for custodial staff and aprons for kitchen staff.

"These people are very visible and need to be identified. We need to make the school a user-friendly building. It's to our advantage to do this for the janitors," said Board Chair Chester Hoernemann.

Shirts and aprons would be purchased for the appropriate personnel, who would then own the clothing and be responsible for laundering it.

"Identifying school personnel makes sense, but not individual ownership," said Krull.

Board member Fred Blaser suggested Supt. James Redfield investigate the possible costs of a professional laundering service. Redfield replied that he would do so if purchasing uniforms is what the board wants.

Board members Barry Kyllo and Blaser saw uniforms as a benefit and maybe something which should be part of contract negotiations. He also questioned getting them for all staff members.

"I was in the office today and I didn't see a janitor. I saw office staff, four teachers, and a principal," Kyllo said.

Board member Gene Starke favored getting ID badges for all the staff.

Blaser said he didn't have a problem with the shirts, but that wearing badges was going too far and would just create more regulations for staff to follow.

"I don't think there is a parent out there who doesn't know who Joe Miller (dean of students) is or one of the teachers," Blaser said. "What is the advantage of having a badge?" he asked.

"When a stranger comes into the school, he doesn't know if Joe Miller is the head janitor or the dean of students. This is all about being user-friendly," said Hoernemann.

"I'm not saying this is a show stopper. If we want to be a user-friendly building, we have to tell the people who don't understand the building where to go and who the key people are to ask," he added.

Blaser still didn't buy into the badge theory, saying that the about 97 percent of the adults in the building are staff members and could provide assistance.

"We are getting bigger and bigger all the time. We are getting different and more diversified people who are coming into our school system. We've got to start identifying our teachers, workers, everybody," said Starke.

To which Blaser replied, "You've got a closed system. The only doors that are open are the elementary office door and the main office door. I don't care if I'm from another country. I walk in there and look and say, 'Gee, that really looks like an office. Maybe, I should stop in there and ask where I'm going.'"

As the conversation became cyclical, Starke asked the chair if they could move on to another item.

Krull commented to Redfield, "We gave you no direction whatsoever."

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