|Board votes for free lunch for elementaries, ELC
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
The Montgomery County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to provide free breakfast and lunch for students in the elementary schools and Early Learning Center.
The move will cost the school district about $158,000 for the year, according to the district nutrition office.
Board member Donna Wilson, who made the motion to approve the measure, called it “a leap of faith.”
The motion was seconded by board member Sharon Smith-Breiner and passed by a 3-2 vote. Alice Anderson also voted in favor, but board members Kenney Gulley and Kelly Murphy voted no.
Gulley told fellow board members that he couldn’t support the decision because it provides free meals to students whose parents have been deemed capable of paying and there is no evidence that they are not being fed.
Anderson responded that at least this way the board can ensure that they are fed.
Smith-Breiner cited as one of the advantages of the move being the potential to boost the school attendance rate and test score improvement.
Under guidelines of the federal National School Lunch Program, the district must commit for a period for four years with the ability to opt out.
Montgomery County now joins a growing number of districts across the state that have agreed to provide free meals to students under the Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. Fayette County is among them.
The act is designed to provide free meals to students in poor income areas.
The board also considered three other options:
• Option A: Providing free meals to all students in the district at an estimated cost of $62,000 per month.
• Option B: Free meals for Camargo Elementary and the ELC students at negligible cost to the district.
• Option D: Free meals for the elementary schools and the intermediate school at an estimated cost of $19,850 a month.
A motion to approve option D was made by Smith-Breiner at one point and seconded by Anderson, but failed by a 3-2 vote with Gulley, Murphy and Wilson opposed.
Smith-Breiner said she couldn’t support option B because it singles out one elementary school among the others.
Food services director Julie Tuttle had recommended either option B or D because of affordability due to the schools’ higher number of students covered under the federal free meal rate.
She said the board can reevaluate the success of the program next April.
In other action, the board:
• Voted 3-2 to end the contract with attorney Mike Owsley who has been representing Superintendent Josh Powell.
Wilson, Anderson and Smith-Briener voted in favor with Gulley and Murphy against.
• Discussed future goals for the district including hire of a district safety coordinator to reduce workers compensation claims, promoting more academic after school activities, updating science labs at McNabb Middle School and the high school, working more closely with Site-Based, Decision-Making Councils, emphasis on career and college readiness for McNabb students, continuing the Project Lead the Way program and allowing McNabb athletes to use the baseball and softball facilities at the high school.
• Discussed the financial status of the district.
• Tabled action on administrative and support personnel salaries for 2014-2015.
The board will meet again in regular session 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, at Camargo Elementary School. Meetings are open to the public.