In attendance were Chair Sherry Carr and members Sue Peters and Harium Martin-Morris. Also in attendance was Superintendent Nyland.
I had wanted to attend because of a couple of issues of interest to me. And naturally, one item on the agenda that I really thought would be dry and not-so-vital turned out to be great. That's why I go to these meetings - you really learn a lot.
The items I had wanted to hear about were:
- MOA with Africatown
- MOU with the Alliance for Education
So what turned out to hold my attention? The presentation on Nutrition Services given by Nutrition Services staff, led by Wendy Weyer.
First, kudos to Ms. Weyer. While her presentation was long, it was detailed and well-organized. She laid out the information to the Board in a manner they could follow and then connect the dots. The district has a gem in Ms. Weyer.
Next, the title of this thread and the Circle of Life in SPS? Ms. Weyer's presentation was a good example of that.
I've said this before (but yes, I'll say it again) - everything connects in SPS. Things ripple. No school lives in a vacuum.
So let's do the links which are to lunch times and bell times:
Ms Weyer is concerned with several issues.
- the district's rising enrollment reflects fewer students who are F/RL and therefore less likely to access food services. As page 3 says, "The bulk of department revenue is dependent on a student's eligibility for free, reduced-price or full pay meals AND actual meal participation." The overall participation rate for lunch has gone from 41.6% in 2009 to 34.4% in 2014. This despite efforts to make the food more inviting to students. The F/RL rate has gone down about 5%.
So why aren't students participating? Here's where the circle of life comes in bringing in the parents who want a real lunch/recess time AND parents who want to change bell times.
- inadequate time provided to students to eat lunch
- inadequate number of lunch periods (4 high schools including Garfield have ONE lunch period)
- district-wide early release days (where lunch may be eliminated, shortened or moved to end of school day)
- middle and high schools with additional early release/late arrival days
- three-day closure of all K-5 and K-8 schools for parent-teacher conferences
- optional middle school waiver day for parent-teacher conferences
- affluence of school district (new parents)
- new federal school meal regulations
- price increases
- school start times
- late buses
- open campuses (Director Carr abhors open campuses and was sworn to secrecy by her own two daughters for the duration of their school careers in SPS but, now that they have graduated, is voicing her opposition. I agree.)
What do they suggest?
- ensure adequate time to eat lunch
- ensure adequate lunch periods
- minimize early release or late arrival days
- close campus
- district-wide snacking vending contract (the district has one for drinks but not for food so each school decides what they stock or don't stock)
- student arrival times
- raise meal price
I will write separately on the Africatown issue which is simultaneously ridiculous and troubling. Luckily, Board members seem to recognize the troubling part and are not going along with the staff request.
I'm going out on a limb here to say that I perceive that staff's heart is not in this endeavor but something unknown to most but a few staff members is driving this situation. I myself do not know what it is. We shall see.
The non-discussion turned out to be that the MOU with the Alliance item got dropped from the agenda with no explanation. So let's see. At the Board Work Session on this subject, several Board members laid out concerns and disappointments with the Alliance. The Alliance asked for a "neutral" meeting place when the two groups convene which led Director Carr to be exasperated and state that if they need a neutral place to talk, it's not going well.
I also am not sure that all the Board members will be attending the Alliance's version of the State of the District on Monday but may just come to the actual State of the District speech to be held at JSCEE on Tuesday. Now, of course, Board members are busy and may simply not be able to come to both but I suspect who shows up where might have a bit more to it than that.
Will the Alliance and the district part ways? Stay tuned.