Posted Date: 10/30/2017
In order to comply with new federal regulations for the School Nutrition Program at the state and national levels, the Board of Education adopted the new policies that were recommended by the school administrators and Food Service Director, Betty Pierce. It is important that parents understand that the new policies are NOT meant to be a hardship or to overwhelm you with notifications. We have worked very hard to find ways to communicate with parents in a timely manner and still meet all the new federal requirements. Let me explain the new Food Service Policies.
First of all, to keep parents informed of their child/children’s meal account balances, we purchased and implemented a new feature that will send you a text alert or e-mail message (similar to the Alert Now messages for inclement weather, school closings, or changes in the school calendar) to inform you at the following account balances. Once your child’s account has a remaining positive $5.00 balance, you will get a message directly on your cell phone that names the account balance and a first notice to please add money to your child’s meal account. If you add money, there will be no other text message. However, if your child’s account balance dips to the zero balance, a second notification will show up on your cell phone to remind you that you still need to add funds to your child’s meal account. The notifications will continue in this manner at the following balances: negative $5.00, negative $10.00, and negative $15.00. If you have not paid the balance and added funds to move the child’s account balance to a positive, the next notice will be at the negative $20.00 mark. Your child will be given the alternate lunch at this point and continue until the account has been paid and the account returns to a positive balance.
The Board of Education made sure the children do NOT go hungry, and any child that the parents did not pay the account balance at the negative $20.00 mark, is offered the following choices for alternate lunches: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and milk, cereal and milk, or a cheese sandwich and milk. The School Board Members are very sensitive to children and ensuring that an alternate lunch is provided until the parents are able to pay the account balance.
Another change in the Board Policy that had to be made to comply with the federal program regulations involved the determination of when a delinquent debt turns into Bad Debt. The Board members wanted one more reminder, a second letter through the US Postal Service will be sent home that indicates the negative $20.00 balance. On the third and final notice the account will be considered Bad Debt once the final letter is mailed and 10 school days have been provided for parents to pay the account.
Should a parent receive the third and final notice and ten school days lapsed without payment, the Bad Debt account will be taken to an executive session at the next regular school board meeting for the BOE to determine what next steps they take. It is their option whether or not to take Bad Debt accounts to the County Attorney for collection. At this point, the parents have been provided 5 (five) text messages or e-mails, phone calls from Food Service Director, Betty Pierce, 3 (three) letters through the US Postal Service, and possibly phone calls from the administration. The child of the negative account, will ONLY receive an alternative lunch when the account has reached the negative $20.00 mark. This part of the policy is not new. Children of negative $20.00 accounts have been served alternative meals for years. The BOE did add a cheese sandwich as a third alternative meal option in order to add a little variety.
The Board of Education, administration, staff, and community members are sensitive to children getting a proper diet. Many people pay these accounts anonymously to ensure children can eat the regular meals. Churches and the Ministerial Alliance, are working alongside the district to help with the situations when they arise, to ensure our children get a full well-balanced meal. As I often do with these articles, the purpose is to keep everyone informed of the changes in requirements from the federal level that every public school must comply with and the School Board Policies that are required to govern the accounts.
The school administration and Food Service Committee met numerous times to find ways to keep the communication open, timely, and helpful to ensure students get a nutritious meal and families do not fall into the Bad Debt category. The Food Service Committee is made up of these staff members: Betty Pierce, Food Service Director; Tina Parks, KIDS Program Coordinator and Food Service Secretary; Norma Pantoja, District Office Accounts Payable and Receivable and Coordinator of the Child Nutrition Program; Donnie Morgan, District Technology Director; Sonja Gayer, Jr./Sr. High Principal; Andrea Jones, Elementary Principal; and Kim Novack, Superintendent of Schools.
A key component to the new policies is to make sure parents keep active and current cell phone numbers and e-mail accounts on file with the schools. If you do not get the text alerts or e-mails, your first notification may be a letter through the US Postal Service that informs you of a negative $20.00 balance and your child is already receiving the alternative lunches. You will have missed the 5 (five) text alert messages or e-mails and phone calls from Miss Betty! That is unfortunate for your child. In order to all work together for the benefit of the children, please keep an active cell phone number and e-mail account turned into the school office where your child attends.
I appreciate the work of the Food Service Committee and the action of the Stanton County Board of Education for making policies where we all work together for children! Please do not hesitate to call me should you have further suggestions on improving communication between home and school. We appreciate good ideas and working together!
Yours in Education,
Superintendent of Schools