The regional high school lunch program is projecting a year-end deficit of nearly $61,000, assistant principal Matthew Malowski told the high school committee Monday evening. Losses can tracked to lower reimbursement from the up-Island school district, which stopped using the high school for its lunch programs last year, as well as a decrease in daily revenues, which are down 14 per cent from fiscal year 2012.
“We are seeing a marked decrease in participation,” in the a la carte budget, Mr. Malowski said.
He attributes the decreases to strict state guidelines that regulate nutrition. Chartwells food service Regional Manager Gail Oliveira agreed, saying Massachusetts has adopted the most strict sales in a la carte lunch program regulations compared with neighboring states. For example, juice cannot be served in quantities over four ounces, and beverages with added sugars or sweeteners are prohibited, except for flavored milk, according to school nutrition standards which went into effect in August of 2012. All bread products must be whole grain. There are also limits on sodium levels as well as fat content.
Ms. Oliveira said she hopes the students adapt to healthier eating, but also expects the company to step up to create state-approved items that are also teen friendly. “We have our marketing and culinary team working,” she said.
Committee members also voiced concern that students might not be getting enough to eat at school. “Kids that are hungry are not going to learn as well,” said Lisa Reagan, committee vice chairman.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, assistant principal Andy Berry presented a revised tardiness policy developed by the disciplinary committee. Consequences for tardiness will be more lenient and less punitive, Mr. Berry said. Under the new policy students will not be penalized until the sixth unexcused tardy per quarter. At that point, the student would attend detention. “After the 10th [unexcused late arrival], we are really in a pattern of behavior that needs to be addressed,” Mr. Berry said. In the past students would receive out of school suspension after being late seven times. “It didn’t work very well,” Mr. Berry said. “We discovered that we could try different things to get kids to learn how to be on time rather than to just be punitive.”
Committee member Susan Mercier hailed it as “a kinder, gentler policy, very well done and very thoughtful.” The disciplinary committee seeks to eliminate out of school suspension entirely and focus more on the underlying issues behind tardiness through work with student support teams. Tardiness is the biggest disciplinary issue at the school, a fact that he is grateful for, Mr. Malowski said.
The committee approved a five-year extension of the Sharks contract, who play baseball in the field behind the school. The land use committee also informed the school committee of a request to build a cell phone tower behind the ice arena, which sits on property owned by the high school. The committee is seeking more information.
Finally, there was an evaluation of schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss, who was present at the meeting. Mr. Weiss received glowing remarks from committee members. Principal Steve Nixon praised the superintendent for his work to improve the mathematics curriculum, his availability to and concern for families within the high school, and his efforts to improve teaching for students all across the learning spectrum.
“We have chosen someone who is tough to evaluate,” Ms. Reagan said. “He is doing the job in such a way that breeds success.”
David Rossi, who was part of the school committee’s search for a superintendent in 2005, said naming Mr. Weiss to that post “was the best decision I ever made.”