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NIS Blog: Enforcing Policies that Protect Children

Upper Dublin School Board: Please enforce the policies that protect our children

Since being involved with the nutrition initiative, I have
learned much about the UD school district in the last three years.  I have attended many school board meetings and through all of them, it seems that there is always one thing that seems consistent:  Many community members with
many questions that are not always answered. It is in the least, very frustrating, as everyone has only 4 minutes of community input, and dare not go one millisecond over, for fear of being cut off in mid-sentence.  Then the hope is
that your question is answered, but that is not always the case.  It seems very disrespectful, as this is really one of the only ways to communicate with school board members, and yes there is limited time for questions and accompanying discussion that relates to taxes, budgets, policies and other important issues. 

The primary responsibility, as I have been told, of the school board is dealing with policies.  A policy is written to set a standard to be followed, so that everyone knows “the laws” to abide by.  It helps things to run smoother, and often will address consequences for non-compliance, at least for students.  So when the wellness policy, a federally mandated policy, was not being followed by administrators, as was stated by a school board member three years ago, that was very surprising.  To try and address this situation, many parents, teachers and administrators worked long and hard to revise the “boiler plate” policy to make it more about Upper Dublin and the high standards that we as a district possess, but yet making it a "workable policy".  We were told that there would be administrative regulations along with the policy, that are simply more details about the actual policy itself.  What we were not told, but have since found out, was that the administrative regulations were not really part of the policy, and therefore do not require waivers for deviations, as they were only “guidelines” for the administration.  Guidelines, which according to school board members, did not necessarily need to be followed.  There are other policies that have administrative guidelines, like the allergy and bullying policies, and the
administrative guidelines for these policies also contain procedures to protect
children, in some cases from serious or fatal reactions, but yet these
documents are just “guidelines”? 

If you agree that there should be compliance  by district employee/Administrators for policies along with their accompanying administrative regulations, please sign the attached form that specifically addresses the current non- compliance, by the Upper Dublin School District, of the Government mandated Wellness policy and
accompanying administrative regulations.

http://tinyurl.com/enforcingpolicy

As important stakeholders, we have a right to know that someone, as stated in this policy, is ensuring compliance. Just as with the other policies/administrative regulations mentioned, this one is also written with the intent to address the children’s future health and wellbeing, and therefore needs to be followed.  

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This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jill Florin October 17, 2012 at 03:53 PM
What I still would like to know Bill, is why are you assuming this is costing the district more money....in fact nothing has shown that. If you look at the last financial statement the food costs were just slightly elevated, and again we have no idea of what that means.....to assume it was due to a difference in the food that was offered is an assumption not based on any facts. ....serving healthful food does not necessarily mean more money. So please stop assuming that is the case without having the facts to back it up....the food service is supposed to just break even, not profit and that has not happened even before this initiative started, they were still losing money. The throwing away of food in the trash, again, not necessarily due to the initiative. If the food is not appetizing, whether it is healthful or not it will be thrown in the trash. I am still looking for the facts to back up that the food is acutally being thrown away in the trash, as you keep on implying. If you have any facts to back up what you are saying, I would love to see them.
Joe Koenig October 17, 2012 at 04:29 PM
@UD Resident: There has been no study in Upper Dublin as to what would happen IF we did not comply with Federal regulations. What will we lose?? Is it significant in the terms of $$ to the District, are there other ramifications?? Everyone assumes we have to comply with the Feds, but maybe the $$ we get from them is actually costing us more $$ to comply. I'm not saying we should not comply, I'm just saying why not study the ramifications, then make a decision.
Jill Florin October 17, 2012 at 04:57 PM
@bill..fyi...I thought you would find this interesting...as I said kids will always rebel, but eventually they give in because there is no choice and as long as it is for the better interest of the kids, there is nothing wrong with that...any change has its resentment....we need to ride the waves, knowing that what is being done is for the better health of the children. http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/silly-backlash-against-new-school-lunch-rules
Jill Florin October 17, 2012 at 05:00 PM
@joe...are you saying that we should not comply with something that is for the better health of the children? I would think that schools need to comply with Federal regualtions anyway, because although UD does not have many free and reduced lunches, we still have approximately 400 kids that need their meals from the school. If you do not comply with Federal regualtions, than these kids will not get served, since the government pays for the meals, only if you comply with their guidelines. Is that what you are saying we should do Joe?
Greenbyrd October 17, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Hi Joe, You ask a good question about the subsidies. The total amount of subsidies that Upper Dublin gets from the state and Federal governments is...$251,000.00 per school year! Yes, a quarter of a million dollars! I am sure Upper Dublin is not willing or able to give up that amount of revenue. Many would be happy to have the food service run as a business, pure profit/loss, but the 10% of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches would suffer the most. I am afraid we are stuck with abiding by the federal regulations, lax as they are. It's is the reason the federal mandate was given to each district to compile their own Wellness Policy! I heard this directly from the USDA representative who helps me answer policy questions. We have the ability through our Wellness Policy to define the kinds of foods we want served to the students. The biggest issue is everyone has a different idea of what "healthy" food is or is not...so, the default goes back to the federal standards. And they are lacking, sub-standard, and make no "common" sense.
UDResident October 17, 2012 at 07:05 PM
From what I recall, at a school board meeting last month, they indicated that the Upper Dublin Nutrition Department had a net loss of over $150,000 last year. Clearly that can't continue.
Greenbyrd October 17, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Many should get the facts about what a school lunch really consists of...how many know what "offer verses serve" system is? This type of lunch system has the children choose 4 "offered" foods from the cafeteria line to qualify as a reimbursable lunch. Meaning, the student gets the $2.50 price(depending on which school) and the school gets their Federal and State reimbursements... 32 cents each lunch from the fed, and 10 cents from the state ( total .42 cents each lunch served) The free and reduced lunches get almost the entire cost reimbursed. A lunch can be... French toast sticks, artificial syrup, chocolate milk, and now...a 4 ounce cup of fruit juice. Kids must now take a serving of fruit OR a serving of vegetable. Fruit juice next to the cashier is the easiest way for kids to get the required fruit...easy and very low cost! The French toast sticks cost less than 14 cents per serving! Most of the highly processed foods have similar food cost. So, not much has changed in what kids are taking for a school lunch...simple carbs. BTW, the " offer vs. serve" was created to lower the amount of waste!!! Not working! Kids should get a well-balanced, healthy meal as a school lunch...period.
Alan October 17, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Wouldn't it be nice if parents were as passionate about education?
Mary Keptke October 17, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I think the NIS group likes to play with words in hope that people will think the wellness policy is law. The wellness policy is where the school students are being held hostage. Let’s waste people’s time and revamp a policy that was only updated a few years ago. They have slip through the back door by changing not only how our children eat lunch but how the classroom is managed by a teacher. Do not confuse the wellness policy with the school lunch program. The wellness policy effects how your child celebrates their birthday in school and even the treat they bring in. The NIS is a very small group of “concerned citizens” who bully people. If you do not agree with everything they say they intimidate you and imply that you want to not do the right thing for the children of Upper Dublin. I am for good nutrition. I am for kids eating healthier. I am not for a group without the education to back them up, interfering with how my children should eat. I am sick and tired of this very small group wasting tax payer’s money, and not allowing educated school employees to do their job without interference.
Greenbyrd October 17, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Iam! I teach many children about eating a healthy and balanced meal, i teach them how to cook, how to shop, how to read labels, the differences between simple and complex carbohydrates, and how to grow their own food! I volunteer many hours to the Boys and Girls Club and provide healthy, balanced meals for 30 children each week...maybe you should consider being passionate about educating children! I practice what I teach, and love every minute. Seems to me, Alen and Bill have a lot of time on their hands. Why not volunteer to teach kids something beneficial? Win/Win?
Greenbyrd October 17, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Mary, it is apparent you do not know what the FEDERALLY MANDATED WELLNESS POLICY is. Upper Dublin and every school that participates in the National School Lunch Program MUST have a WELLNESS POLICY!! Dr. Pladus invited teachers, parents, students, administrators, and board members to a Wellness seminar last June. We meet for an entire day to put together this policy. Is this slipping through the back door? If you are for good nutrition, why not be in favor of a policy that says any new foods added to the menu can not have aspartame, artificial colors, BHA,BHT,MSG,Trans Fats,and sodium nitrate?? I have worked in food service for many years and know US Foods sells plenty of real food without these ingredients. And, again, most parents in Upper Dublin can pack their child a healthy lunch and skip the lunch line...but what do you say to the kids who have no choice but to eat this highly processed food 180 days a year??? Would someone please answer that? Guessing none of you has ever fallen on hard times and had to rely on our public school to feed your child.
Jill Florin October 17, 2012 at 09:18 PM
HI UD resident, thanks for the comments. You are absolutely correct , $150,000 is much too much to lose and it cannot continue. If you were at the board meeting though, if you remember much of that money came from other things versus the reibursable lunches, which is where the nutriton focus primarily was. Catering was about $30,000, lost from lat year, and still ot exactly sure what that is. The largest amount was under the heading of a la carte which I still do not know, nor does anyone, what exactly that meant, as it was never fully explained. The initiative really was dealing with the reimbursable meals, and that actually was relatively steady for the first time in years....I do have an email in to ask for an explanation more about the financials as I, like many were left very confused. I will be happy to share what I learn in a future blog post :)
UDResident October 17, 2012 at 10:53 PM
I actually received free school lunches for a number of years as a child. Again, it is completely appropriate to make the healthiest choices available within the financial realities of the school budget. Anything beyond that, in this era of shrinking resources, needs to involve a broad based discussion about what our priorities are as a district.
Jill Florin October 18, 2012 at 02:28 AM
just curious Mary, are you a food service employee?
Mary Keptke October 18, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I am a professional that has no affiliation with the school district. Just curious Jill do you have any degree in education, healthcare, nutrition or foodservice?
Jill Florin October 18, 2012 at 01:37 PM
@Mary...I too am a professional. I worked in healthcare for 7 years, specificly with the diseases of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and diabetes. Had more training in things like Myocardial infarction (heart attacks). I had nutrition training in my current position that i have been doing for 5 years. But, Mary, most importantly I am a mom who cares about the devastating statistics of what could happen if we do not change the way we feed our kids, and feel it is important to make a change. Does that answer your question?
UDResident October 18, 2012 at 02:40 PM
From what has been stated here, specific information regarding why the nutrition department ran at such a defecit is not yet available. What I have been told anecdotally from people who work at my children's elementary school is that the kids are buying less school food because they don't like it. For example, one issue that was mentioned specifically, is that they don't like the whole wheat pasta. There have been some statements about not giving kids a choice. And that is great advice for PARENTS. But it is very hard to implement at the school level, since what seems to be happening is that kids are just bringing food from home. Maybe they are bringing healthy fare that is more to their taste, maybe they are bringing lunchables, who knows? If we had a large number of economically disadvantaged kids, chances are, they'd eat whatever was served, but that is not the case. Maybe this perspective is incorrect, and the information Jill obtains will prove that the changes had no or minimal financial impact. If so, great, then there are only positives in the changes. Personally, my kids are used to whole wheat pasta, and bring lunch from home most of the time anyway, so the only possible non-positive impact to our family is if educational programs are negatively impacted by defecits run by the nutrition department. And that would matter to us. We don't want to lose things like Robbins Park.
Mary Keptke October 18, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Not really. You are putting yourself out there as a nutrition and healthcare and foodservice and education expert and still we do not know what your professional and education background is. You can have a marketing degree and work in a healthcare facility. If you are claiming that it is because you are a concerned mom then you need to reexamine the role of mom. Take care of your family and do not send your child to school with Oreos. Show your children that you support the professionals we hire to do their job. If you do not like the way things are being handled you can teach your children valuable lessons in civil civic discourse by yes, using your 4 minutes, writing a letter to your school board and voting for the people who will deal with the school issues the way you would. Anything else is wasting time and costing us money just to satisfy your agenda and bring attention to yourself
UDResident October 18, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Assuming there are not negative cost implications, I can't see how anyone can be against healthier cafeteria food, and think it is great that we live in a community where people care enough to get involoved in things like this, and dedicate their time, whether as a mom, a professional or both.
Jill Florin October 18, 2012 at 03:25 PM
@Mary...I will not continue with this type of unproductive conversation. Maybe you could start by telling me what your professional background is. Whatever I do, the main point is that I care, not just about my kids, but many others. If you have a problem with that, then don't read or comment on my blog. I appreciate all comments, questions, and opinions about the initiative, but not ones that attack me personally for what I am trying to do, which contrary to what you may think...is a good thing.
Stacey Margo October 18, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Wow, Mary! So, sit back and let the professionals handle it lol! What a statement! Many of us dedicated parents--and many people in general--have degrees in many varying educations but do not pursue careers in those callings, for one reason or another. That does not mean we are not allowed to participate in, or have a voice, or are otherwise considered less deemed to pursue whatever path we so choose. It's called research, passion, and, most importantly, being our child's best advocate. Knocking someone based on degree is so silly...do you not know that a degree can be given to an MD who has perhaps failed the Board exam 10 times??? Does that make him more qualified? Having heart and dedication to make the world healthier for our children is never a waste of time or money. Sad you should see it that way...
Stacey Margo October 18, 2012 at 03:32 PM
And if it was simply about being professional, then it would be simply about following policy. Simple is as simple does...
Jill Florin October 18, 2012 at 03:52 PM
HI UD Resident...I will be sure to share when I recieve answers. Not sure whether you know this or not though, so I thought I would put out this piece of information. Food Service is on its own budget and is not part of the other budget that is for educational stuff. The only time that it would possibly impact anything with the other budget would be if funds had to be transferred from the general fund. Funds that could have otherwised been used for the education budget. This has not happened. I wanted to mention this because, as we all know there has been discussions regarding this year being the last for the "normal " as we see it. I want you to know that this is not related to anything in food service. It scares me too, as things like Driver's ed which is a course that would otherwise cost us money and time which many kids today do not have much of, is most likely going to be gone next year, along with other things. Drops in Federal funding, state funding and other reimbursements (I know nothing about all of this stuff, except what I see at school board meetings) is the reason for the huge financial issues we are facing as a district. It does not help when people are led to believe that the nutrition initaitive had anything to do with that...it has not . Lets all hope that we do not have too many education cuts next school year :(
Mary Keptke October 18, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Jill if you are going to welcome comment you need to welcome it even if you do not agree with it. Otherwise it is not an open public forum and does not belong on the patch. My post have been civil, you just do not like them. I have only stated my opinion and again if NIS doesn’t like it, this small group attacks the naysayer. I do feel that this relatively small group which you lead is negatively affecting the schools to which my children attend. As a mother I have the right to ask what your background is since you are trying to influence what is served at my child’s school. It is okay when you do it but not okay when someone else does it?
CSmith October 18, 2012 at 05:15 PM
There is waste in the schools because the children are told they MUST take three or four items from the menu for their $2.50 even if they say they don't want them. Then the children take those same items and throw them away. My own children have complained about this and even at their young age realize how ridiculous this is. This makes no sense and represents bureacracy at its worst. Why not let the kids take the items they intend to eat and then offer the leftovers to the kids and their families who qualify for the free or reduced lunch? Some of these meals could be someone's dinner. Or, even give the food to a pantry like the one at Chelten Church. Such waste in this era of unemployment and financial instability is a disgrace. As usual what are generally well meaning policies are taken too far. That is why they lose support and are eventually abandoned.
Stacey Margo October 18, 2012 at 05:26 PM
This is so inane. We teach children respect, of themselves and of others. Yet there is such a clear lack of respect when it comes to our disagreement in how to get to a better place for our children here in this policy. In the schools, we are teaching our children what it means to be healthy: in the gym class and in the health class. Yet not in the cafeteria. We crave the best grades for our children. We want them to be the best, to have all the skills and resources to achieve these skills. Yet we are asking them to lower their standards when it comes to nutrition. We spend thousands of dollars in taxes to have the best equipment and books to make our children knowledgeable. Yet we are willingly okay with putting carcinogens and toxins into their tiny bodies because we don't want to be bothered with going against the grain and hearing them whine at the lunch table. It is just unfathomable that at the height of being known as the 4th fattest country with adult diseases plaguing our children, that the NIS is being called out as bullies for caring about our children. Shaking my head...
Jill Florin October 18, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Thanks for your comments C smith. I am so happy that people leave some of these comments to clear up misunderstandings. The taking 3 or 4 things HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NUTRITION INITIATIVE. That is a federal government guideline which states that kids need to have a certain amount of components on their plates in order for the school to get their reimbursement. I totally agree and always have that it is a rediculous rule. As a matter of fact, it is something that creates, as you said a ton more waste...you put it on the kids tray and they do not eat it or drink it, where does it end up...IN THE TRASH. This is part of what is called the Offer versus Serve procedure....another government regulation. So please understand that some of these things that are so upsetting are not related in one bit to this initiative....we are just about giving kids healthier choices while keeping the bottom line in check. As an FYI, do you know that a child cannot have a bottle of water as a drink unless they pay separately for it, even if it would be one of their three components. I have also heard that unless there is a note from a parent to say that a child has a medical reason for not taking the milk or juice, they cannot have the water except to buy as a snack item. Why is that? Because the government sees no nutritional value in water, and so it cannot be taken instead of a milk or juice. Crazy right?
Joe Koenig October 18, 2012 at 06:38 PM
@Jill: Which is why I questioned following the Federal guidelines!! Please check your response to me. " @joe...are you saying that we should not comply with something that is for the better health of the children?" Do you think that the UD community might have a better idea as to the issues within our community. Blanket regulations are not helpful, they only throw up barriers to sucess.
Jill Florin October 18, 2012 at 07:12 PM
@Joe...so sorry Joe...I misunderstood. As regulations are such a broad term and there are so many. I was referring to the newest regulations where there must be a fruit or vegetable on the plate. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, I think is a step in the right direction. The other regulations are not all so good, as I stated above, adn yes I definitely feel that if we could just do what we felt worked best for our kids in our community we would be a lot better off. But, as I had stated, as long as you are a public school,I believe you have no choice in the matter, but to follow the regulations if you want to get paid. I do not think that the school even has an option not to follow the guidelines because they are a public school, and the kids that would be hurt if they would not follow the guidelines would be the free and reduced, as they would then have to pay....it is so complicated to follow, and yes these types of regulations do throw up barriers to success...I full heartedly agree :)
Greenbyrd October 18, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Joe, guess you didn't read the part about UD getting one quarter of a MILLION dollars in state and federal funds per school year...PLUS the $35,000 to $45,000 in commodity foods, PLUS a $15,000 dairy grant! Over 30% of UD food service budget comes from government reimbursements...if you can get the school board to give that up, I will re -organize the food service to be a profitable business...gratis! But, in the mean time, the federally mandated wellness policy was created for school districts to dictate the foods they do and do not want served to it's students! And to those who say leave the food decisions up to the professionals ( as only one board member is a physician), I say, the food "experts "in our government have been in charge of the National School Lunch Program for 7 decades...and look at the health of America's children! Did you know 8 ounces of milk is considered a serving for a 6 yr. girl and a 16 yr. boy? The fed knows this is a huge problem. Kids have gotten used to "fast food" at school, it is going to be tough to turn them around, but not impossible. I have proof of this. I teach the so-called " disadvantaged" kids what a healthy, balanced meal is, and was told they won't eat " healthy" food". Really! Some of their favorites are... Grilled rosemary chicken, couscous, steamed, chilled broccoli, roasted vegetable tomato sauce ( on anything), chicken vegetable soup, zucchini bread, sweet potato muffins, pineapple, apples, eggs (any way)!

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