As he stepped to the podium to share his monthly superintendent’s report with the school board, Scott Dill beamed with excitement.
“This is a game changer for our school district and the lives of many of our students,” Dill said.
Through assistance from the Community Eligibility Provision, Dill told board members at last week’s monthly meeting that all students at Houston Elementary School will eat breakfast and lunch for free for the 2014-’15 school year. The initiative requires no additional tax money and contains no costs to the district.
“It’s the right thing to do for kids. The ability to feed more kids was too good to pass up,” Dill said. “There are more hungry students in Houston, Missouri, and Texas County than I think most people realize. It’s significant and it has an impact not only on learning, but also on lives.”
The CEP passed unanimously in the Senate and was signed into law by President Barrack Obama in 2010. The first year in the program is a pilot one for Houston, followed by as many as three more years of free meals.
An elementary student who eats breakfast and lunch at school would spend $2.95 each day. Savings through the program for families paying full prices for both meals every day is about $60 per month and $513.30 for the school year.
Dill, who spoke to area school districts and legislators while pursuing approval for the program, said districts with a high number of free and reduced meals can basically pay for the remaining full price meals. In Houston, more than 65 percent of the student population falls in the free and reduced category.
“This one is easy for me,” Dill said. “I know that not everyone agrees with it – and I’ve had a few people tell me so. It’s the right thing to do educationally and morally. Kids who are better fed are better learners. It’s as simple as that.”
Also at the meeting, school board members:
-Approved purchasing property across from the elementary school at 531 W. Chestnut Street for $60,000.
-Hired Tricia Brauch as speech-language pathologist under auspices of established critical shortage procedures and hired Nancy Koch to work 550 hours during the current school year.
-Accepted the resignation of Gwen Montgomery as a bus driver.
-Approved Sarah Welch, Kimberly Brannan, Mary Jane Lybyer (coop) and Montgomery (bus) as substitute teachers for the current school year.
-Authorized Dill and Lillian Collins, director of the Exceptional Child Cooperative, to hire and set wage for a personal assistant for a preschool student entering head start.
-Were told online payments via Paypal for school meals are now available through the parent portal on the district website. Payment for fines and other collectibles could be made available next year if the system works.
-Approved the unchanged tax rate of $3.55 for the 2014-’15 school year.
-Created a grant-funding dependent position for a wellness coordinator in the district. The position is funded by grant money from the Missouri Foundation for health.
-Approved the annual Secretary of the Board report and the Professional Development plan.
-Heard three sets of doors at Hiett Gymnasium will be replaced by the end of September.
The next board meeting was moved back one week due to the upcoming holiday. It will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the Exceptional Child Cooperative.
This one is easy for me. I know that not everyone agrees with it – and I’ve had a few people tell me so. It’s the right thing to do educationally and morally.”