RC board weighs in on lunch program changes

The Rush City School Board on Oct. 18 unanimously agreed that no school meals will be provided to students with food service accounts showing a deficit of $10 or more.

Students will be offered a sandwich and milk when such  deficits occur.

Looking for direction on the issue, Food Service Director Donna Westman presented a list of accounts that show several with negative balances. One child’s account had a deficit of over $100, an amount that has carried over and grown from last year, she said.

No names were associated with the meal accounts presented. The list only included student account codes.

Board members acknowledged that while some parents may be strapped for money, particularly until they get paid at work, others need to be more responsible in making sure their children’s accounts are replenished. Westman reminded the board that parents are notified at various times when their children’s meal account is close to needing and in need of funds.

Westman also compared old and new federal guidelines for school meals, an issue that has led to much criticism and even boycotting across the country. New guidelines reduce the amount of fats, salt and certain carbohydrates and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that schools including Rush City can offer, she explained.

Students are still allowed to buy an additional entree as they have in the past, she clarified.

High school report

Superintendent Vern Koepp, taking the place of high school principal Brent Stavig who was not able to attend the meeting, said the Rachel’s Challenge presentation was a “great success” at the high school.

Students are now meeting regularly to carry out the initiative’s anti-bullying message through a group called the Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club. A student-led effort, staff leaders are also involved in planning events and activities.

Student participants include ambassadors Jenny Tryon and Adam Engel; club leaders Robbie Suloff, Keanna Belau, Nick Kost, Alissa Mell, Mitch Siefert and Josie Kent; and historians Carlie Mell and Viola Manske.

In addition, the high school is offering the ACT again this year over the months of October, December, February and April, and Minnesota College Application Week is Nov. 12-16 with Rush City High School participating for the second consecutive year. Every senior is expected to submit three applications during that week; the state goal is one application per student.

Elementary school report

In her report to the board, Jacobson Elementary principal Melody Tenhoff congratulated support staffers Melanie Hedberg and Donna Zastera who each received the Education Support Award from Resource Training and Solutions during a recognition program this fall in St. Cloud.

Tenhoff noted Mrs. Lofgren has started a new program called Book Pizzazz, which rewards students who read at home with pizza from Creekside Pizza.

She presented the school’s character word this year: compassion.

“This fits right in with the district’s increased anti-bullying efforts,” said Tenhoff. In addition to a Character Counts program, the school will be building a Chain of Compassion that will wrap around the school and maybe connect with the high school if students there decide to create a chain through its Rachel’s Challenge program.

Last, AmeriCorps is again supporting the national program, Read for the Record, Tenhoff explained. In light of this, 217 elementary students participated by reading this year’s book, “Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad.”

AmeriCorps and foster grandparents also are teaming up again this year to implement reading support for fourth and fifth grade students. “We hope to be able to start this program soon,” said Tenhoff.

In other news, the board:

• Approved a bid for refunding $2,270,000 of general building bonds from Raymond James & Associates, from Memphis, Tenn., who the board also awarded the sale of general obligation bonds. This refunding will save district taxpayers about $190,000 over the next five years, said Gary Olsen of Ehlers & Associates.

• Approved paying invoices and obligations in the amount of $696,972 for Rush City and $369,452 for the St. Croix River Education District. Business manager Laureen Frost noted the district has $2,316,963 invested as of Sept. 30.

• Approved the resignation of custodian Christopher Darst; authorized additional paraprofessional time Monday through Thursday mornings at 12 hours per week; and employed Cindy Schlangen as a paraprofessional to work six hours a week.

• Approved the following St. Croix River Education District (SCRED) personnel actions: increased the Outcomes assistant position to full-time and approved a six-week family leave request for Emily Griffith beginning Dec. 16.

• Learned the brick work has been completed on two sides and the third side should be completed soon on the new SCRED facility downtown. Otherwise, the walls are going up, the interior is coming together and roof work should be completed as soon as the brick work is complete, said Koepp.

• Agreed, by consensus, that the district mission statement and goals should be a topic of discussion for the School Board Advisory meeting on Dec. 10.

• Also by consensus, the board agreed to make school facilities available for alumni during the All School Reunion in August 2013.

• Reinstated the Morning Tiger Club Program due to sufficient interest from parents.

• Endorsed an MSBA legislative resolution, drafted by North Branch schools, which attempts to decrease the disparity in educational funding.

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