NEWARK — What if every child attending any Newark school could get a free lunch every day?
No need to fill out the paperwork for free and reduced-cost lunches, no payment options, no cashier needed, no parental requirements to disclose sensitive financial information, no stigma attached … every kid, a free lunch, every school day.
That’s a subject that’s likely to come up in a Newark Board of Education meeting in October after board member Tom Ledbetter asked for an initial discussion in August. At the Wednesday, Sept. 4 meeting, resident Margaret Clark added some substance to Ledbetter’s request, saying the Utica schools, with 10,000-plus students, are offering free lunch and breakfast to every child, every school day.
The funds to pay for the lunches would come from the Community Eligibility Option of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a federal program. Utica applied for a grant and got the funding. In the Utica schools, three–quarters of the students qualify for either free or reduced-price lunches, and several large-city districts are participating as well.
Ledbetter sent other board members an e-mail the day of the meeting, sharing a news item that showed Boston had 38,000 students getting free lunches in its all-kids-eat-free program. He felt the advantage of such a program is that many students who don’t eat lunch now would do so under the free-lunch program. In Boston, only 64 percent of students ate lunch before the program started.
Districts using the universal free-lunch program reported lower administrative costs, and Ledbetter added that lunch lines themselves actually tend to move faster because there’s no stopping to pay.
Administrator named
In other board business, former director of pupil services Krista Lewis was named assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. She succeeds the retired Yvonne Saner. Cook said the choice of Lewis was made from a pool of 39 applicants, 12 of whom were interviewed by all administrators and several teachers at all levels of the district. Lewis’s starting salary is $103,500.
Cook told the board that Lewis had made a well-received presentation to teaching staff during the pre-school sessions, focusing on a co-teaching model that has special education teachers as teachers in regular-education classes, not just “helpers.”
A carryover item from the last board meeting included the reinstatement of Sandy Bueso as a boys’ soccer coach. There had been some issue with his certifications prior to the season’s beginning, and junior varsity coach Scott DeRue was moved into the head coach position two days after practices had opened, taking over a team Bueso had coached in prior years. Bueso said the state had made a mistake and had re-submitted his papers for clearance at the time of the last board meeting Aug. 21. He was named the boys’ JV coach Wednesday.
Enrollment steady
Cook said enrollment for the start of school was 2,177 versus last year’s 2,191.
“When you see what’s happening through the region, this is a good sign,” he told the board, as many schools in the area are facing declining enrollment.
“We’re holding our own,” he said.
Food also came up in another board item, the district’s annual Friends of Education Award, which was presented to the Newark Food Closet on the opening day of school for staff members on Aug. 29.
Schools Superintendent Matt Cook explained the award is given in appreciation of what an individual or group “does for the students and families of Newark…that goes the extra mile to support Newark education.”
The commemorative plaque given to Food Closet Co-coordinator Joanne DePauw states, “You are such a wonderful asset to our schools and community, Your organization provides the necessary nourishment to so many of our families and engages many of our education groups in community service.”
Cook said after the meeting that the district is in the midst of a food drive to support the Newark Food Closet. In his remarks on Aug. 29, he said children cannot learn when they are hungry, nor can parents help their children do their best in school if they’re worried about how to put food on the table.