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Colorado Dept. of Education audits Gilpin School’s food service  

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Board of Education considers opinions on standardized testing

By Patty Unruh

The Board of Education of Gilpin County School had its regular meeting on February 2. Members present were President Craig Holmes, Charlotte Taylor, Kersten Armstrong, and Steve Boulter; Brook Ramsey was absent. Also present were Superintendent David MacKenzie and Secretary to the Board Robin Cortez.

New Employee

Sean Braning, a new custodian, introduced himself to the Board. Braning has been a local resident for the past 13 years or so and has a daughter in the kindergarten at Gilpin. He also has two younger daughters and a large extended family.

The Board is inviting all new employees to come in and be introduced.

Food Service Audit

Jane Yerkman, Food Services Coordinator, gave the Board a report on the audit that was conducted by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) on January 7. The audit is required for all schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Among the areas assessed are nutritional quality, meal patterns, and financial management.

Audits were previously held every five years and are now going to be held every three years. Gilpin’s last audit was held during the 2009-10 school year.

Yerkman stated that the audit went well. “There were no critical violations, which could have had adverse financial implications.”

There were, however, a few minor matters that need to be corrected by February 12. Yerkman said some of these have already been corrected and expected no issues meeting the deadline.

One area needing correction was snacks and drinks. Sun Chips had been offered on the ala carte menu, but CDE says this snack does not meet ala carte snack guidelines. Also, full-calorie Gatorade was offered, but that drink does not meet the healthy beverage guidelines. Instead, low-calorie Gatorade is approved.

Yerkman also said some of the salad bar records were not found to be complete. “I did not document all the legumes (foods such as black beans and garbanzo beans),” she admitted. These items are always included in the salad bar, along with fresh and canned fruit.

The food service staff has been trained in “offering versus serving” food. “Offering” means that the food is available for the student to help themselves, and “serving” means that a staff member puts it on the student’s plate. The CDE was critical of a milk carton served to a student that apparently shouldn’t have been.

The CDE reviewed 140 out of 167 applications for free and reduced lunch benefits to make sure that all were in order. Some had been completed incorrectly.

CDE did commended the food service. “Storage facilities were clean and organized, all food items were stored at least 6 inches off the floor and all items were labeled and dated. Kitchen staff were very friendly and created a welcoming environment. Staff encouraged students to make healthful choices. The kitchen was very organized, clean, and well managed.”

Holmes said Yerkman had been doing a good job, and she passed on praises to the food service staff members for their hard work in maintaining strict standards in hand washing, wearing hair nets, and changing aprons before serving food.

Yerkman learned in September that the food service would be audited this school year. At that time, she and MacKenzie worked together to ensure that the food service took any steps needed to meet CDE requirements.

“We had to implement a new menu with 51 percent whole grains and the required amounts of fruits and vegetables,” she said. A five-week cycle menu was adopted, which has been “mostly well received” by the students.

Recipes must include the correct portion sizes and calorie counts for the various age groups of students. Certain ingredients have to be used; in order to ensure those were correct, the food service obtained label documentation from the manufacturers.

Board members were interested to learn about required calorie counts. The calorie range for kindergarten through fifth grade is an average of 550-650 calories per day for lunch. If the 650 calorie count is exceeded for one day, Yerkman said she must cut the calories on another day to meet the average. Sixth through eighth graders have a 600-700 calorie count, and ninth through twelfth graders have a count of 750-850. The food service is not allowed to exceed the maximum count.

Three out of four breakfasts served are hot meals. Granola bars and fresh fruit are always available also. MacKenzie said the bus schedules have been arranged to get the students to school five minutes earlier to allow a full 15 minutes for breakfast.

Yerkman noted some new menu items planned for February, including taco burgers, chili, and cinnamon rolls. The rolls include the quota of whole wheat and have no icing.

Taylor questioned an audit item on whether eligible families are told about the availability and location of free meals for students via the summer food service program. This is for children needing the free and reduced lunch program. Yerkman said this information will not be available to her until May. She said the school has not provided these summer meals in the past and is not required to do so, but is required to let students know where to get them. Holmes asked what the funding level is for the program; if funding is the same as the school lunch and breakfast, he said it would be “tough for us to have.” Yerkman is to provide the Board with more information.

She will meet with the District Accountability Committee next week to discuss the wellness policy.

Policies

The Board approved several policies on second reading regarding staff, including those for nondiscrimination and equal opportunity; treatment of staff and respectful workplace; staff leave of absence; and grievances.

The policy on teacher responsibilities had been discussed at length in the January meeting. Among teachers’ duties are pupil record keeping, discipline, and reporting to parents. It had been noted that some teachers had not posted grades in a timely manner, apparently due to computer problems.

At the February 2 meeting, Board members agreed that as a “best practice,” teachers should continue to keep parents informed in a timely way. The approved policy states, “Licensed personnel are charged with … registration and record keeping, pupil discipline, reporting to parents timely with student information: current academic performance, class attendance and tardiness, and discipline actions …”

Superintendent’s Report

MacKenzie reported that a professional development day will be held February 6 for formative assessment training for teachers. Elementary teachers will continue to work on curriculum alignment in literacy and math. Secondary teachers will review assessment practices and teaching strategies.

A safety committee meeting will be held February 18, and the superintendent will have a question and answer session for parents on February 19 from 7 to 8 p.m.

Elementary and secondary lab computers have been functioning well after resolving an issue with the server.

MacKenzie is working with head custodian Ken Petersen and school resource officer Lee Ramsey to finalize a grant application for window replacement, installation of safety film, and the upgrade to emergency communication walkie-talkies.

MacKenzie had completed putting together several curriculum guides for the teachers to use to see what aligns with state standards. The guides contain scope and sequence information (what a child should learn in each grade), including examples pulled from other school districts. The guides are intended to help with standardized testing, such as CMAS, PARCC, and STAR tests.

Standardized Testing

The Board discussed the current controversy in Colorado and across the nation about standardized testing. Many people, including students, feel that there is too much testing. Holmes said that national legislation is being considered to reduce testing.

MacKenzie said the frequent testing comes from the “No Child Left Behind” act that mandated national standardized testing in exchange for funding, and most states, including Colorado, have gone beyond the minimum testing requirements due to available funding.

“The law is the law,” he said. “All kids have to be tested. The law will have to be changed if testing is to be reduced.”

He also acknowledged that Common Core is a controversial topic, but added, “We don’t see it going away.” Common Core State Standards is a national, rather than a state, initiative intended to ensure that all American children share a basic body of learning. The initiative has come under criticism in part because children learn differently from each other, among a number of other reasons.

Next Meeting

The next meeting will be Tuesday, February 17, at 7 p.m.

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