Superintendent: Daily pledge kept at JDHS

Posted: Tuesday, December 19, 2000

The Pledge of Allegiance will continue to be recited daily at Juneau-Douglas High School, schools Superintendent Gary Bader recently affirmed.

The school's site council voted 7-4 in early November to require the pledge be recited every day. The council includes teachers, support staff, parents, students, the principal and a business person.

But 20 of the school's approximately 85 teachers signed a letter earlier this month asking Bader to reconsider. Some wanted the pledge recited weekly so it would be "less likely to become a meaningless repetition of a mindlessly memorized phrase," said teacher Clay Good, who signed the letter.

But Bader, in his response, said the site council had the right to make the decision. Bader said he prefers the daily pledge.

Teacher Gretchen Kriegmont wanted the pledge recited daily. The pledge gives students a sense of identity and pride that they belong to something, she said.

Saying the pledge weekly "seems more like a nuisance," she said. "To say it on a daily basis, it's more of a tradition."

The controversy at JDHS came about because a new state law requires public schools to recite the pledge regularly, without specifying how often. Juneau schools have done it daily since the school year began. Students who do not want to participate are allowed to remain seated and silent.

The issue also has raised questions about the site council's procedures and role. The council made a decision counter to the opinion of 54 percent of students and 60 percent of teachers surveyed in October, Good said.

About two-thirds of students were surveyed, as were nearly all teachers. The school's parent discussion group was split about evenly on the issue, said chairwoman Kim Blair.

"Quite apart from the issue itself, teachers expressed to me a strong feeling of concern over the loss of control over the decisions that are made regarding what they do in the classroom," Good said.

"They're thinking the process was flawed because we didn't vote lockstep with teachers and parents at a parent meeting," said site council facilitator Lance Carpenter, a parent. "But that's advisory in nature and the site council has brains of their own."

The survey forms indicated the results would go to the site council for consideration before a final decision was made, said Principal Deb Morse. She told the council she would be bound by its decision and would take that to Bader, who had the final say. As it happened, Morse couldn't attend the council meeting but Bader did, and he didn't object to the decision.

"In this case I felt the site council was the appropriate method," Morse said. "We have classrooms because we have students and parents. We need to have that input into what they think is appropriate."

Craig Mapes, a teacher on the site council, voted for daily recitation.

"I'm very much in support of the process we followed and am glad the administration has backed the process," he said. "However, we as a staff and a site council need to further discuss how site council members represent their constituents."

It isn't clearly defined whether council members act as delegates who vote as the majority of their constituents dictate, or otherwise, Mapes said.

Even Kriegmont, who was pleased with the outcome, didn't like the process. She would have preferred a schoolwide vote by teachers and students.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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