School board discusses child nutrition, testing and accountability

Jason Koon Screenwriter

The Burke County School Board met Monday, Oct. 3 for a business session to discuss funding for the district’s child nutrition program and 2021-22 state test results.

The meeting began with board member Seth Hunt asking to defer consideration of the plan to cut child nutrition spending until a later meeting. He also requested a written submission from Keith Lawson, Burke County Public Schools Finance Officer, outlining acceptable expenditures for the surplus and a “detailed rationale” from Child Nutrition Director Daniel Wall “for all items. which he asked”.

“I know I have a plethora of questions after seeing this on Friday,” Hunt said.

Wall said the plan had already been submitted to the state for approval, which is why it was on the agenda as an item of information. Hunt countered that he still believed the board needed to discuss some of the items.

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“It’s a pretty expensive item, over $700,000 and we haven’t had a chance to discuss it,” Hunt said.

On Friday, September 30, Board Chair Wendi Craven said The herald of the news she and other board members first saw the plan on Friday.

“I watched it today. It’s the first time I’ve seen any of this actually,” she said. “So there will be a lot of talk about that, I think.”

At the Oct. 3 meeting, council attorney Chris Campbell said the council would still be able to change the plan even after it was submitted to the state.

BCPS Superintendent Mike Swan also confirmed that no surplus will be spent until the board is able to review the plan.

The Board of Directors will review the expense reduction plan at the next working session on Monday, November 7.

Chartwell

Senior Food Services Manager Aaron Propst presented the Chartwells quarterly update highlighting two programs, “Mood Boost” and “Discovery Kitchen”. Both programs are designed to educate students about the impact of different foods on mood and health and inspire them to try new foods.

Propst said “Mood Boost” won the 2021 Best New Food Management Concept award in the K-12 industry.

Wall also presented the council with two proposed amendments to the district’s contract with Chartwells.

The first amendment relates to the district’s latest two initiatives: “Free Fridays” and premium menu options. On September 23, the district rolled out its first premium options by spending $1,347.05 to serve a free double cheeseburger or cookie to 4,832 students. The first “Free Friday” was scheduled for September 30 but will be postponed to October 7 due to Hurricane Ian.

The second amendment to the contract is for a grant of $437,981.54 from the USDA to help offset the impacts of school nutrition program inflation. According to USDA regulations, “Supply Chain Assistance Funding” money must be spent on milk or fresh fruits or vegetables. The money will go to Chartwells since the district has contracted with Chartwells for its food service.

“In a way, it would be like paying Chartwells for milk and fresh fruit and vegetables to help them with rising food costs across the board,” Wall told the council.

other business

In other business, BCPS Director of Testing and Accountability Ross Rumbaugh gave a 10-minute overview of the 2021-22 North Carolina State Report Cards released Sept. 1.

According to Rumbaugh’s overview, just over half of the pandemic-related learning loss suffered by Burke County schools has been recovered in 2021-22. According to the report, four schools received a B grade and Burke Middle College was rated A. The schools earning a B were Patton and Draughn High Schools, Heritage Middle School and Drexel Elementary.

Six schools in Burke County have been designated as “low-performing schools,” meaning the school earned a D or F without exceeding growth targets. Rumbaugh said no school in Burke County earned an F.

It was not the first time the council had received testing and liability data for 2021-22. According to multiple sources, Rumbaugh had presented the data in greater detail during approximately two-hour breakout sessions with the members in September.

Diffusion

Monday’s business session was held in person and streamed on the district’s website and YouTube channel for the first time since January. The board suspended continuous work sessions last winter to allow for more frank discussion. Craven and the board returned to streaming the working session in response to community feedback. All the meetings convened regularly and especially this year were broadcast continuously.

The board will reconvene for a regularly convened meeting Monday, October 10 at 6 p.m. at the Olive Hill Resource Center.

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