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School board extends Kherat’s contract, OKs dress code without committee recommendations

Mike Rundle

The Peoria Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday night to extend Superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat’s contract for four more years.

The board, on a 5-2 vote, approved the extension through June 2026. Board members Chase Klaus and Dr. Anni Reinking voted against the continuation.

Later in the meeting, the board approved an updated dress code for the district, but chose to exclude recommendations offered by the Parent Teacher Advisory Committee (PTAC).

At the board's meeting on Aug. 22, Reinking presented survey results regarding the dress code that showed 68% of respondents approved a rewritten policy with more inclusive language. Along with expanding gender-neutral terminology, the proposed updates included provisions to allow for hooded sweatshirts, pajamas and ripped jeans to be worn.

The new dress code policy approved on Monday night did not incorporate those updates, including only “minor tweaks by Legal Counsel.”

The meeting agenda also states “the approved version is broad in its language and is therefore non-specific and non-prescriptive” and encourages the administration to “protect the individuality, diversity, and self-expression of students.”

Reinking continued her push for a rewritten policy, recalling evidence she presented at the Aug. 22 meeting.

“I hope the administrators at schools…and the district truly consider and think about the recommendations that the PTAC committee put together last year, and the ramifications for self esteem, academic disruptions, and the objectification of females and historically marginalized students when appearance is discussed and disciplined at inequitable rates,” said Reinking.

Board member Paris McConnell resisted, asserting students should show respect for the school environment through their clothing.

“We are training children to be professional and to go out into the world and to represent their best self, and children do need to understand time, place, and space. What I wear at home, I don’t wear in public,” said McConnell. “Students don’t live at the school, they’re only in our buildings about seven hours. They have the rest of the day and the weekend to express themselves however they want to dress.”

Reinking was the only board member to vote against the motion, and it was approved 6-1.

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Mike Rundle is a correspondent at WCBU. He joined the station in 2020.