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East Village School Principal Wages Dress Code War on Teachers

By Serena Solomon | December 27, 2011 7:12am
Marlon Hosang wears a suit and tie to his job as principal at P.S. 64 everyday.
Marlon Hosang wears a suit and tie to his job as principal at P.S. 64 everyday.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

EAST VILLAGE — The principal of an East Village elementary school is cracking down on sloppy dressers — but it's not his pupils who are feeling his wrath.

Marlon Hosang, of P.S. 64 Robert Simon School on Avenue B at East Sixth Street, is telling his teachers to dress more professionally in an effort to transform the school.

But not everyone at the school has embraced the initiative. At least one teacher has filed a complaint with the United Federation of Teachers.

“I assure you no teacher wore jeans and flip-flops to their interview,” said Hosang, 42, who wears a suit and tie to work every day. “What happened after that?”

In the handbook issued to teachers each September, “professional” dress is a requirement at the school.

Marlon Hosang has worked at P.S. 64 for ten years. Four of those years were spent as principal.
Marlon Hosang has worked at P.S. 64 for ten years. Four of those years were spent as principal.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

About a year ago, after noticing a decline in dress standards for some of his teachers, Hosang began wondering how he could be more specific about the term. In October this year he sent out a memo banning things like jeans, spaghetti straps on singlets, flip-flops and gym clothes.

“We want to transform this school to make it a more professional learning environment,” said the principal, who has spent the last 20 years in schools, four of those as head of P.S. 64.

When the memo went out, Hosang said there was some resistance, but most of his staff have warmed up to the idea.

“Some teachers had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, and I feel for them,” he said.

Hosang presented two female teachers who supported the dress code but asked that their names not be used.

“I think it is a reasonable request,” said one, describing the initiative as inspirational.  

“Some teachers might not know what 'professional' is. They need boundaries,” she added. 

Both teachers believe the professional dress code Hosang described in his memo was important in gaining the respect of both students and parents. 

Alia Carpenter, the Parents and Teachers Association president at the school, also agreed that a well-dressed teacher is viewed differently by students. 

”If the teachers dress differently, they [the students] respond to that,” she said, adding that at a recent PTA meeting, a vote was cast on the dress code. About two-thirds of the 160 votes were in favor of Hosang’s memo, she noted.

Carpenter also said it would set an example to students, who Hosang hopes will start wearing school uniforms sometime in 2012.

“It is about putting them (students) in clothes to learn,” Carpenter said. “These are your play clothes and these are your learning clothes.”

As for the complaint with the UFT, Hosang will be meeting with representatives from the union.  

Hosang’s dress code is contrary to board policy, according to UFT Press Secretary Richard Riley.

He referred DNAinfo to a 1976 decision by the then Board of Education Chancellor Irving Anker. In the case a teacher, Thomas Pantelis, complained about being forced to wear a tie by his principal, Dr. Howard Hurwitz. The appeal fell in favor of Pantelis.

Even though Hosang says he's likely to be vetoed, he believes he has already changed the culture in the school and his teachers will dress better by choice and not because of policy.

“I think I would have made my point,” he said.