Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Katie Crawford
Aramark food services, which provided more than 350,000 meals to Wallingford-Swarthmore School District students last year, served up the focus topic of the October 10 school board meeting. Jay Gordon, director for Aramark Educational Services, outlined his multilayered approach to managing the district’s food services with an emphasis on today’s demand for local produce and more scratch cooking.
The highlights of the past year were the introduction of 205 Bistro at the high school, which has transformed the cafeteria into more of a food court. Based on the results of the student survey, this new venue is very popular, despite the so called “wrap incident” this year, where the wrong size of tortilla briefly resulted in smaller sandwiches for students. The discrepancy was quickly brought to the attention of Aramark by SHHS students and was immediately rectified.
Mr. Gordon was particularly impressed by the energy and ideas of the members of Strath Haven Middle School student government, who successfully negotiated with him to establish Tater Tot Tuesday. Also at the middle school, in collaboration with the Life Skills teacher, selected students in the life skills program will be able to learn basic skills in the kitchen during the school day.
Mr. Gordon stressed Aramark’s commitment to composting when the option is available, and to spotlighting local produce when seasonally possible. Currently our schools receive many fruits and vegetables from local farms through J. Ambrogi Produce. Many of the fruits and vegetables also have accompanying information displayed to students through Farm Logix, which features facts about exactly where the produce comes from.
Gluten-free options are provided at every school, and Aramark recently met with a SHHS student who is vegan to determine better ways to provide vegan options. Goals for the upcoming school year are to further increase scratch cooking at all schools, expanding breakfast options at the elementary school, and to continue their excellent safety record for employees.
Gordon emphasized that he is in every school every day and that he usually responds to phone messages within 24 hours for any parents that have a concern.
“Spirited” Discussion Reported at SRS
SRS parent David Grande returned this month to again address the board regarding class sizes in the 4th grade.
Grande acknowledged the well-attended meeting at SRS with parents, SRS Principal Dr. Tuck, and WSSD Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer and the “spirited” discussion that took place regarding parent concerns.
Grande noted that while parents felt there was a lot of transparency regarding the discussion detailing the process by which the class size is determined, parents remain frustrated, given that if the same circumstances were to occur next year they would, at this point, yield the same results.
While there has been lots of focus on supporting students in this grade who are at risk, Grande voiced concerns about the students in the “middle” who might quietly not be reaching their full potential.
Grande also listed the many questions that parents still have — “Where do the guidelines for class size come from?” “How and when do these guidelines get revisited?” “What are the other options for class arrangement, including the possibility of vertical integration?” “How much do we allow specials to drive class size?”
While Grande acknowledged the complexity of the situation, he also reminded the board that he and other parents “are just as concerned as they were last month.”
In response, board president Dr. Richard Sonntag noted that while the board does oversee district policy, it employs teachers and administrators as the educational experts who actually develop the guidelines for class size.
Sonntag also pointed out that while we could equalize class sizes across the district by busing students to other schools, as a community we have placed value on neighborhood schools.
Sonntag noted that the current class sizes at SRS were not unprecedented in the district and that they were in fact within the district guidelines. The increase in class size as the students progress through their elementary school years is also in keeping with the educational research which shows that when allocating resources, students in the youngest grades should be provided with the smaller classes.
Blue Ribbon Award
In her report, Dr. Palmer praised Strath Haven High School for being one of only six schools in the state of Pennsylvania to receive Blue Ribbon recognition for excellence, first in 1985, then in 2002, and again this year. SHHS is one of only 329 public or private schools in the U.S. to receive the recognition this year.