CAMDEN — Every year, Preble Shawnee Superintendent Matt Bishop consults with the board of education and then directs the district’s principals on how they are to handle lunch charges.
Currently, the policy states a student can charge a week’s worth of lunches before they are no longer allowed to charge.
At that point, the students are provided with a cheese sandwich, milk, fruits and vegetables. However, toward the end of the year the district is more lenient about the policy and allows students to charge.
During the board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3, Superintendent Bishop asked the board for their direction.
“We don’t want to put our cashiers and food service workers in a position where they are taking things away from a kid and not allowing them to have something. We don’t want teachers to be in a position where they have to take up for either side, or advocate for a kid in front of our food service workers,” Bishop said.
“I just want clarity from the board. Are you fine with the idea that we don’t establish a threshold for charging and we handle it on an individual basis with adults? If we say that, internally, once a kid gets a week worth of charges, then we turn that over to an adult — whether that be a principal or a Success Liaison. That person can reach out to the family and notify them about the situation. That way it is adults having conversations with adults, and not a kid getting a cheese sandwich. It takes the dread off of our food service workers and cashiers and our teachers aren’t involved.”
Board member Gary Rader asked about the policy for other schools.
Bishop responded, some schools don’t allow for many charges and others allow for a week like Preble Shawnee currently does.
There are students who still have a charge balance at the end of the year, ranging from 10 cents to $15. All the charges from the school year add up to $597 for 1,400 students.
“What we would do is, we would not have a threshold for charging, allow kids to charge, and establish a local dollar amount where that would trigger adults to contact the family and having a discussion. That way, we are taking the kid out of it. We are only talking about a few frequent flyers who would take advantage of the policy,” Bishop said.
“The other thing is, when a kid goes through and charges, even if they get up to $20, the fee never goes away. They owe that until they graduate or transfer. We will always be collecting that money.”
Board President Julie Singleton asked about the policy once the kid graduates. Bishop responded, the students cannot walk at graduation unless their fees are paid.
“I agree with what everyone is saying. It doesn’t sound like that much money. Any business, you’re going to write off money and I get that we are trying to pay the bills, but it just doesn’t seem like a lot of money,” board member Jeff Wood said.
“Cheese sandwiches need to go,” Singleton said. “They need to be a thing of the past. You’re putting the burden on the child and not the parent. I would have to imagine, while some of the time it is because they don’t have the money, most of the time a parent just forgot. If you have that Success Liaison say you owe money, they’re going to pay it.”
Bishop suggested trying the new policy for a year and seeing how it works.
At press time, Bishop indicated the policy had changed from the one discussed at the meeting.
He explained, they attempted to have a no charge ceiling, but had too many families running up high debt. The district was concerned that, without a ceiling, the amounts would add up to an unmanageable number for the families. They decided to cap the amount a student can charge at $30, which still allows a student to charge over 10 lunches.
When a student has reached that limit, an alternate meal including a sandwich, fruit, and milk will be served. The student’s household will be notified when a student’s cafeteria account falls below $-10.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH