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Halifax County trustees debate policy to keep school lunch fees in the black / February 04, 2013
A spat involving a student who fell behind on her school lunch fees prompted a lengthy debate by the Halifax County School Board at its work session Thursday night in Halifax.

Last month, Lisa Hatcher told trustees that her daughter, a middle school student, had been embarrassed and humiliated when a cafeteria worker threw her lunch in the trash after telling the student she had gone over the $5 limit for charging her meals.

ED-4 trustee Cheryl Terry raised the subject Thursday night, saying the board should consider a different way for dealing with the problem — such as calling the parents or sending them a letter. Chairman Kim Farson noted the $5 limit is not a policy of the School Board, but rather an administrative procedure.

At the trustees’ meeting last month, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon explained that the $5 limit had been put in place after staff found last year there had been several occasions where students racked up $40 to $50 in unpaid charges for their meals. Cafeterias have to be self-sufficient in order for the school division to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, Herndon said.

ED-1 trustee Karen Hopkins said “the humiliation of any child is not acceptable and we need to find a way to hold parents responsible, not the child.”

ED-7 trustee Dick Stoneman agreed: “We don’t want to hurt any child. There has to be something else we can do.”

Food Services Director Lori Hale said she is working on the matter, trying to find another way to insure that all children are treated equally. She added that she is hoping to work with parents to address the issue.

“I will help anyone with their application for free or reduced meals,” Hale said, adding that she also must consider ways to keep cafeteria operations within the budget.

ED-8 trustee Walter Potts asked Hale to be sure that all schools operate in the same manner.

Trustees were urged to think about the problem and bring solutions to the March meeting.

Trustees also reviewed the recently approved Reduction In Force (RIF) policy by placing it alongside the school’s Performance Evaluation System. Most of the discussion centered around the prospects for downsizing teachers who are on a Plan of Improvement and who are second in line for RIF action, if and when, layoffs become necessary.

The Performance Evaluation System points out that a teacher who has been given an unacceptable rating on an evaluation may request a review of the evidence by the principal or the Director of Elementary or Secondary Education, and if still not satisfied, by the School Superintendent.

Trustees also approved a resolution opposing federal cuts to education (under the budget sequestration act currently before Congress) which would harm the local school district. The proposed 5. 9 percent cut in federal aid would result in a loss of more than $135,178 to the local school system, which has a very limited capacity to absorb any further budget cuts, the resolution stated.

“Given the budget cuts and adjustments our local community has made in recent years, there is simply very little, if anything else, left to cut,” Herndon said. “Any further cuts in education funding would adversely affect the quality of our education programs.”

The sequestration reductions, she said, could result in larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, possible four-day school weeks, loss of extracurricular activities and teacher and staff layoffs.

The resolution is being forwarded to members of Congress to urge them to avert the sequester.

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With the cost of food what it is, I have a serious problem with cafeteria staff (or anyone else in this school system) throwing food in the trash before it has been paid for or eaten by a student, simply to prove a point.

I will remember this "policy" next time the school system comes up screaming they're short of money. You can afford to throw out perfectly good food, you're not as short of funds as you want us to believe.

And we all thought the school administration under Stapleton was incompetent.


If you go somewhere to eat and don't have the money to pay the bill, do you still get the food? No! Once the food is placed on a tray, if a student changes their mind or can't pay for the cost of the food, it has to be thrown away by federal guidelines. I work in education and have for 15 years. I do not work in Halifax's system, but I have been in 3 total school divisions and the throwing away of food is a policy in all of these divisions. If a student can get away with charging they will and then the division is back to losing big dollars for unpaid charges. This is just another case of something minimal being blown out of portion and too many people reacting before having all the facts in the incident and all of the facts and guidelines that school cafe's have to abide by in order to follow federal guidelines. School Boards are getting in too many incidents that should be handled by the people who know the ins and outs of education.


Educated One, you are not as educated as you think and you work in a school system? Yes you do get and eat your food at most places. Exceptions would be fast food. I have on a couple of occassions have given my check card to my wife etc and even charged at Hardees and then gon back an paid. With what my kids tell me, the food in the school system sucks. Not the way it was when I went to school, we had real food on real trays with real silverware. I bet if this had been a "minority" this would not have happned.


"Once the food is placed on a tray, if a student changes their mind or can't pay for the cost of the food, it has to be thrown away by federal guidelines."

Says it all. More federal waste and meddling.

What is the loss difference between a student going over their card balance vs throwing the food out? It's a loss either way. If the kid has paid for the food, then throws it out, that's a different story. Still wasteful.

Guess there was something to be said for the cash-only basis used in school cafeterias years ago.

I'm glad I have no school-age kids now- I'd do whatever had to be done to keep them out of public schools, because I don't believe kids get a proper education due to all the federal and state mandates. Add in high-level admins who come in intending to leave their mark, and the stage is set.


How about stopping to think for a moment, cafeteria worker? Allow the child to have her food, make a note of the extended credit limit. Notify the school office to call the child's parent and let them know that the child was allowed to purchase lunch that day but unless payment or other arrangements are made for payment, the child would not be able to have the cafeteria's lunch the following day. The burden is then on the parent to pay up and make sure the child has lunch without embarrassment.


The cafeteria workerd didn't really have much of an option if they wanted to keep the heat off themselves. This decision and policy administration was made higher up by people who have proven themselves to be ruthless. The cafeteria staff had to be the bad guy and implement the policy.

I just realised why they use these cards in the first place. On a cash basis, nothing can be tracked. Using this card, the school system has an electronic record of lunches served and at what price level, so they keep their federal funding. And as we all know, keeping that federal funding is paramount in modern public education.


As a caring adult, I find it hard to ever justify taking food from a child! Remember when kids had to rent books, books weren't kept from them because their parents didn't pay! Oh, you say that is instruction-- seems we have research that supports students perform better when they are not hungry!!! Shame on anyone who supports such a policy---educator or not!!!!!!!


I cannot belive this is even happening. I don't have any children in school but I have two nephews and I can tell you that if this happens to one of them it will not be a pretty sight at the school or the school board. I cannot believe anyone one person or shall I say administration would even allow for a policy like this. Makes not sense at all to me. I know for a fact that some of these childrens only meals are the ones they receive while at school. And Ms. Obama wants children to have healthy lunches well what do you think she will say to the fact that they don't even receive lunch or they are served crackers and water. That is not healthy at all. We should never ever refuse a child food or anyone for that matter. Children should never suffer because they don't have money to pay for their lunch. That is the parents problem and it needs to be addressed to them. If nothing else maybe they should allow them to have a sandwich which is a heck of a lot better than some crackers.


I can't stand it when people outside of education suggest that it just be done a certain way. What do you people not understand about Federal and State regulations having to be followed. If schools are found to be in violation of the policies they will lose all Federal and State funding for food services. That means that there would no longer be a Free/Reduced program and ALL students would have to pay higher prices. If a student receives Free lunch, then they are not be denied a meal. The person in question just reached the maximum charge amount and the parent was not responsible enough to send their child money to pay to eat.


How many students attend Halifax schools? Maybe 5500-6000? What if 500-750 kids were all allowed to charge $5.00 and never pay it back. That's a loss of $2500-3750 that needs to be made up somewhere along the line. Stopandthink said "call the child's parent and let them know that the child was allowed to purchase lunch that day but unless payment or other arrangements are made for payment, the child would not be able to have the cafeteria's lunch the following day." So what if the child gets in line the next day and doesn't have you let them charge again or take the lunch away? The child has to go through the line before they reach the register, so the tray would have to be taken away which is what is causing this uproar.


"What do you people not understand about Federal and State regulations having to be followed."

Bellyaching, I'm in an industry that makes the regulations public schools have to follow look like simple arithmetic. I'm all too aware of the nonsense and paperwork fed/state regulations entail, and of the consequences something as simple as using the wrong color of ink can create.

"If schools are found to be in violation of the policies they will lose all Federal and State funding for food services"

Which is what all this boils down to: fear of losing that funding. That's also why they want the charge record- so they can track it.

I still say throwing away perfectly good food is wasteful, but since the Feds have never considered waste or cost in anything they do as long as it follows their FR specifications, I guess county taxpayers are overruled.


All of these folks with their opinion, the fed regulations, etc. What if it was your child Ms. Superintendent, Mr./Ms. Board member, Mr. Federal regulations expert!!!! End of discussion!!!!!!!!


Well let's see..Prizery Grand Piano $90,000.00 Christmas decorations....ungodly costs....Drunk persons on Friday nights in the town square with police protection on the towns dime PRICELESS. The child with his/her lunch tossed in the trash for parents owning the school $5.00 Ridiculous! If Mr. Randolph, Mrs. Griles, Mr. Zamora heard of this in the high school....out their pocket would hove flow the cost of lunch and parents would be held accountable...THE CHILD WOULD HAVE EATEN!!!! ENOUGH SAID!!


Educated One, Joe Blow, getaclue all need a hobby and a life!


Well. We've made it to Channel 13's nightly news and website, so now the folks north of us (who already consider us a backwater) and web-wide see what goes on here.


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