The Watson Chapel School District Board of Directors was urged to consider adopting a new student meal plan with a history of increasing the number of children who eat breakfast during its regular monthly meeting Monday night.
Vivian Nicholson with the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry Campaign told the board that the program has been adopted in a number of other school districts in Arkansas and that its has the full backing of Gov. Mike Beebe and Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell.
“The Arkansas Alternate Breakfast Program includes Breakfast in the Classroom, which is most used in elementary school, Grab and Go, which is popular with middle school students, and the Second Chance Program, which gives high school students who otherwise would not get breakfast the opportunity to do so,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson said that according to data from the 2011-2012 school year only 20 percent of Watson Chapel students who get either free or reduced price lunches ate breakfast.
“Under the alternate breakfast program we want to serve 50 to 70 percent of these students,” Nicholson said. “Students that eat breakfast every day do better in school according to the research that has been done.”
Board president Sandra C. Boone asked how much money the district would have to pay to take part in the program.
“The only cost component involved goes to buying supplies,” Nicholson said. “And those supplies are paid for with non-competitive grants that we help the district apply for. You would actually get more food under this program due to increased participation rates and since the district receives reimbursement for these meals the district actually ends up with more money by taking part in this program.”
Nicholson said the program does not require additional staff since the meals are not eaten in the cafeteria.
“We do advise that a district either utilize this program or stick with the program they have as opposed to trying to do both because that would increase your costs,” Nicholson said.
District superintendent Danny Hazelwood told the board that the owner of a piece of property located at Oakwood and Sulphur Springs Road is interested in selling it to the school district.
“This is the land that the owner had asked the planning commission to rezone commercial last year and that the district opposed,” Hazelwood said. “He sent me a letter Friday offering to sell us the property and the house on it for $125,000 plus taxes and closing costs.”
Hazelwood told the board that he did not recommend moving toward a purchase of the land.
“I don’t believe the district is in a position to spend $125,000 on a piece of property that we don’t have a use for,” Hazelwood said. “It would not be beneficial to us, I don’t think.”
The board appeared to agree with Hazelwood’s position.
The board approved Hazelwood’s recommendation to renew the contracts of all certified staff except for those retiring or resigning for the 2013-2014 academic year; and to hire Dorothy Jean York as a substitute cafeteria worker.
Hazelwood received retirement notices from Pam Bennett, Gwendolyn Peebles, Jeannie Eastwood, Donna Kerr and Rita Smith.
Hazelwood received a letter of resignation from Sam Hill.
Hazelwood said the district received $1,946,583 in March and spent $1,957,388; leaving an ending balance of $8,483,662.
Board vice president Robin Barker praised Watson Chapel High School students for their performance of Nifty Fifties and the staff and students of Watson Chapel Junior High School for the Benchmark Blowout they held last week.
Boone said she had recently spoken with Watson Chapel alumnus Adam Ladd.
“I spoke to Adam recently,” Boone said. “He is a state boxing champion and he is coaching boxing at the Merrill Center Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. He is doing it as a service to the youth of Pine Bluff and he encourages anyone who is interested to stop by.”