Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Don Gill said that so far, things have gone pretty smoothly for the 18,700-student district. He’s excited about the new administrators and the building projects paid for by Measure C and completed over the summer. And he’s impressed by how students are concentrating on classwork – not coasting.
“I’m thankful for positive way in which our teachers, administrators and classified staff welcomed our students,” Gill said. “The students seem to be very focused on their academic work.”
One way the district wants to help keep students’ minds on assignments and tests is by its dress code. Currently, all of Antioch’s middle and elementary students wear uniforms.
In last year’s spring semester, the district enacted a dress code at its high schools. According to Antioch’s policy, students must wear school colors; keep backpacks, clothing and jewelry free of any derogatory or gang slogans; take off hats when indoors; and cover up bare midriffs and unnecessarily exposed skin.
Christian Carter-Maddox, a junior at Antioch High, said the district’s uniform policy is a good thing. Carter-Maddox wore a gold polo on Wednesday, as many of his classmates wore either black, gold or white tops, or class-specific T-shirts.
District administrators are anxious to see the results of the dress code enforcement at its two traditional high schools – Antioch and Deer Valley. While enforcement has been scaled back at Deer Valley as new principal Ken Gardner gets accustomed to his post, Antioch sees a future of high compliance.
According to Gill, all Antioch high schools – including the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School – will eventually institute the policy.
Gardner took over this summer at the district’s largest school after the district decided to switch from a two-principal model. Former Deer Valley co-principals Clarence Isadore and Scott Bergerhouse have taken similar jobs, Isadore leading Vallejo High School and Bergerhouse now the vice principal at Black Diamond Middle School.
“We didn’t want him to be burdened with the task (of enforcement),” Gill said of Gardner. “The goal for the board is to have every student in a uniform K through 12. Something like that that shows school pride and connection to the school.”
Gill and Antioch High Principal Louie Rocha said the uniforms are tied to the school’s move to “wall-to-wall” linked learning academies. The city’s oldest high school operates an engineering academy and plans to develop programs in media technology and environmental sciences, Rocha said. Similar programs are in place at Deer Valley and Dozier-Libbey.
The uniform program has an opt-out clause, which many seniors took advantage of last year. According to Rocha, of the roughly 60 students who chose not to wear uniforms last semester, most were graduating seniors, while many others opted out due to legitimate financial problems. Some parents, Rocha said, didn’t agree with the uniforms policy. Gill said the opt-out figure was much higher at Deer Valley.
This year, now that parents have spent a summer preparing for and buying school-colored clothing, Rocha is expecting better returns. So far, only about 35 opt-outs have materialized, a number Rocha figures will drop as the uniform policy becomes a mainstay.
Rocha hopes uniforms will keep students’ focus on schoolwork and help them prepare for the job market, where baggy pants and skin displays are a no-go.
“Those little things make a big difference,” said Rocha, an Antioch alumnus. “When you get a group of people, whether it’s a team or an organization, they have some kind of a community feeling, like they’re a part of the same thing. If they’re wearing school team or spirit wear, it seems to bring a little more pride and a little more sense of belonging.”