Cumberland approves lunch rules; parents can turn off accounts

Cumberland approves lunch rules; parents can turn off accounts

CUMBERLAND – Saying they’re sorry it had to get to this point, school officials have set new penalties for those with excessive balances on their school lunch bills.

The school board, at its meeting last Thursday, March 14, unanimously approved member Mark Fiorillo’s proposal to bring back alternative lunches of nut butter or cheese sandwiches, reversing an earlier move away from such meals due to the idea of “lunch shaming.”

Fiorillo said it’s important for parents to understand that meal accounts are not charge accounts, but debit accounts that need to be front-loaded.

Member Steve Hess said that since 149 letters went out to parents of students with delinquent accounts on Feb. 17, $5,766 has been repaid to the overall outstanding balance for those with debt greater than $100, leaving a total of $41,176 in outstanding debt.

Under new rules, when an account reaches $50 in the negative, parents will be notified by letter and/or phone call, and students will no longer be able to charge accounts. At that time, an alternative meal will be served, said Fiorillo.

Member Heidi Waters said she communicated during the subcommittee process the concerns of a number of parents that they couldn’t limit their children’s purchases, and it was “discovered that parents do have that ability to not have their kids charge, and they (Sodexo) will communicate out to the district the process to turn that charging mechanism off for your kids.”

Fiorillo cautioned that if a student does come to school without lunch, staff will provide them with a lunch, and the parents will be charged for that lunch.

Chairman Paul DiModica called it a “sad day,” but said too many parents have taken advantage of the district while blaming school board members.

“No one expected it to climb so high and so fast, and something needs to be done and we’re sorry we had to make the change,” he said.

The money gained goes straight back into the food service, he said.

Also at the March 14 meeting, the committee approved version one of the school calendar, keeping the current schedule of not having a full February vacation.

Supt. Bob Mitchell said school administrators didn’t have strong feelings, but leaned toward the second version adding three days of vacation back into a February week.

Waters made the motion to keep the status quo, seconded by Fiorillo, saying school leaders worked hard to get rid of February vacation. They noted that having those three days of vacation ends up pushing school a week further into June because of additional cancellations.

Hess said it’s become apparent that it’s “literally impossible” to “develop a calendar that would meet everyone’s needs” based on all of the conflicting schedules in various schools and surrounding districts.

Version one passed 6-1, with Ray Salvatore voting against it.

Comments

And, a big 'THANK YOU' to the entire School Committee for having the "You Know Whatsies' to do this!

Now...one more request?

Stop incurring the costs of sending out letters, and the manpower costs involved, to the known DEADBEATS.

Please turn them over to Attorneys that specialize in this kind of litigation wherein these deadbeats will also incur legal expense.

More-so, their names will be made public!

Alfa - are you comparing the cost of sending out letters to the parents/guardians to retaining counsel to send out letters?? Litigation should always be the last option.