Pine Bluff School District attorney Luther Sutter of Benton made a surprising offer at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, saying he would write a check covering the amount of delinquent lunch tabs for students.
Pam Winkler, the district’s finance director, reported to Superintendent Linda Watson and the board that among some full-paying students — hailing from families that have not satisfied criteria for free or reduced-price meals — PBSD is currently experiencing a shortfall of $12,659.43.
Students have continued to be provided regular meals even though they’re in arrears, but Watson said that practice can’t endure forever, and alternate meals may have to be served at some point. She illustrated the possibility by saying that instead of fried chicken, vegetables and a roll, students behind in their payments might receive a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.
Sutter then raised a hand and pitched his offer.
Watson told Sutter she would personally discuss the situation with him at a later time. Sutter apologized for involving himself in the discussion, saying, “I’m sorry. You know how I feel.”
Watson said that some of the parents involved work for the district or have “decent” jobs elsewhere, but don’t always establish and follow proper priorities.
“They’ll pay $100 for a pair of tennis shoes but won’t pay for their child’s meals,” she said.
Director Andrea Roaf-Little thanked Sutter for his generosity, but said she would ask instead that parents “please pay.”
After the meeting, Sutter expounded on his proposal.
“I can’t stand to see hungry children,” he said. “I was brought up rough, and I had to stand in a secondary lunch line some myself, and I remember how I felt. So as long as there are hungry kids around, I want to do my best to help them. I simply can’t abide the thought of hungry children.”
Sutter said he’s in the process of initiating a food company in Pine Bluff and hopes to utilize the operation in aiding local children.