Pizza & cupcake police catch up with Shaker schools

BELMONT — Shaker Regional School Board members learned last night that because the district food services program gets reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ice cream socials, pizza parties or any other activity that uses food as a reward or a punishment will no longer be allowed.
Administrators said serving such treats on school property — and this includes selling candy bars for fundraisers or cupcakes for birthdays — are forbidden.
"This is not going to be well received," said Debbie Thompson, the school district business administrator who, along with Superintendent Maria Dreyer, recommended communication with parents immediately.
Dreyer said she is concerned with the cinnamon buns scheduled to be served at the upcoming senior breakfast.
"We need to start now," Dreyer said, noting she doesn't think cinnamon buns are on the wellness nutrition chart. Thompson noted that should the district be found to be non-compliant in the future it could loose all its USDA food reimbursement.
School Board members, who are noted for serving food at school board meetings including pizza some months and sandwiches, cookies, and fruit at others, were incredulous but agreed that the district couldn't jeopardize their federal food reimbursements.
Thompson said a second piece of the audit indicated all elementary school students who get free or reduced lunch must take three of the four items offered to them — including a fruit or a vegetable.
Should a student only take two items, he or she would be charged an a la carte price that would not be federally reimbursable.
The third audit item identified and addressed was forbidding students to take any refunds from their lunch accounts for use in any of the vending machines. The only refunds allowed according to the state and federal nutrition authorities are for when a student leaves the school and is in possession of a letter from their parent or guardian.
Thompson recommended a change in the student handbooks regarding refunds.
In other business, the School Board authorized the creation of a half-time athletic director position. The director would serve both the middle and high school at a salary not to exceed $30,000. Not budgeted for 2013-2014, Dreyer explained that the stipend for the high school athletic director for $10,000 would be applied to the position and she said she has money in personnel lines from shifting employment within the district to fund the balance.
The board also authorized elevating girls lacrosse to a varsity-level sport with NHIAA acceptance. For three years, girls lacrosse has been a club. The program will continue as a pay-to-play sport until the next budget cycle when the School Board will determined if the program, that costs about $4,500 annually should be included in the 2014-2015 budget.