The Bayonne Board of Education awarded the contract to Uniformity on June 19, which will supply school uniforms to 6,500 students in the 11 elementary schools.
In the weeks that followed, outspoken parents have taken aim at the policy as well as the way the plan has been implemented, saying that the district moved ahead without a clear mandate from parents.
Although other voices have been raised in support of the uniform policy, particularly from numerous teachers employed in the Bayonne School District, many questions remained unanswered.
In some cases, the campaign against the uniforms appears to have generated some misinformation and misconceptions, which Robin and Paul Labb - owners of Uniformity sought to correct.
The name Uniformity in itself has raised some questions, particularly in relationship to the company's original name, Scholastic.
"I started the company six years ago," said Robin Labb, "After being in the uniform business for 20 years."
Located in Newark, the company has a satellite office in Kennedy Center in Union City, and started to change its name from Scholastic to Uniformity in 2005 when seeking to expand its area of operations into New York State, where several other companies named Scholastic did business.
Robin Labb said she and Paul did not change the name to do business in Bayonne, but that the name change took effect just as Bayonne was awarding the company the contract.
Although another uniform company named Uniformity does business in southern New Jersey, Robin Labb said it has no relationship to her company.
During the last few months, the Labbs have been seeking to get their paperwork changes, including internal computer data to show the name change.
"The name change had nothing to do with Bayonne," Robin Labb said.
Packages designed to meet needs of the community
Although the Board of Education approved the contract with their company on June 19 to supply the uniforms, Robin Labb said she had never met any of the board members, although she usually did when doing business in a district.
"We met with Dr. [Patricia] McGeehan [schools superintendent] and Mr. [Robert] Craig [assistant superintendent]," she said.
Paul Labb said that the day after the board approval, Uniformity was in town with a staff of 20 people to help get kids measured for their uniforms. Although school officials had indicated originally that measurements would be taken in all 11 neighborhood elementary schools, Paul Labb said Midtown Community School offered the largest space, and the most convenient location with plenty of parking.
While some critics blasted the uniform plan over the package parents are required to purchase, Paul Labb said the company didn't design the package, school officials did.
"We discounted the uniform packages, but they chose what made up the packages," he said.
But in defending the contract, he said the packages covered a wide spectrum of sizes that included youth and adult sizes.
"No matter what size the package costs $89," said Robin Labb.
Resident Sharon Metro, whose one child fit into adult sizes, confirmed this fact.
"They charged me the same price even though my son is into adult sizes," Metro said.
Robin Labb also said parents were allowed to pay in increments.
Although only about 40 percent of parents indicated in an informal survey that a uniform policy would be acceptable, a poll of those ordering uniforms by the company shows enthusiastic support.
"Maybe the people who like the idea of the uniforms are ordering," Paul Labb said. "But those we talked to were thrilled."
Uniformity, Robin Labb said, has a proven track record of providing large uniform orders, which is one reason why the company can be counted on to handle the 6,500 students in Bayonne.
"Not all uniform companies can handle this," she said.
Details make Uniformity's product better
The type of uniform offered also differs from uniforms typically found in parochial schools, stylish enough for savvy public school kids to consider worth wearing. The uniforms - although deliberately devoid of the company logo - are made by Dickies, offering a higher quality product than many uniform companies can provide, she said.
Although if something happens to the uniforms such as shrinking gym shorts, Uniformity will replace them.
"We stand behind our uniforms," Paul Labb said, noting that some parents have complained about the "crunchiness" of newly acquired uniforms. "This is just a spray for shipping."
Although the Bayonne contract required Uniformity to have a store in Bayonne, Paul Labb said various real estate issues have prevented this to date, although the company hopes to have a store in town shortly. Meanwhile additional measurement dates have been scheduled for Midtown Community School for this week as well as yet unannounced dates in August.
Robin Labb said Uniformity has been seeking applications for workers at the store, although until the store is opened, the person would have to be trained at the Newark facility.
"Having a presence in Bayonne is important to us," Paul Labb said. "It would also give us access to Staten Island."
Bayonne, unlike some school districts, is implementing a legitimate uniform policy, not merely a dress code.
"We've walked away from school districts that said they wanted uniforms, but really meant dress code," Robin Labb said. "In the 1980s, uniform policies failed because they were really dress codes. People could go out and buy the right color pants and shirts. But after a while, they drifted away from it. Here we have a real uniform and that's what we sell."
Uniformity is also committed to providing all sizes from pre-k to adult, and keeps all in stock.
"Other companies may say they will provide uniforms, but will carry only the regular sizes," he said. "We will do what we need to make sure each child gets the uniform he or she needs. If a child can't afford a uniform, we will provide it."
Al Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.