Afterschool Activities” from “Student Teachers

“Welcome to Back-to-School ‘School,’” greets our May 2017 magazine. The article, written by editor Patricia Fitzgerald, takes a whimsical look at lessons, problems, and solutions commonly faced by school nutrition professionals as they head back to their kitchens in the fall. If you have completed both the homework and bonus projects assigned by Fitzgerald and her team of “Student Teachers,” consider the tips and challenges included here for some extra-curriculars to dive into for making the grade and acing your year. 

Wanda Brandon
Assistant Director of Child Nutrition, Hinds County School District
Hinds, MS

One of the challenges we have faced in the past with back-to-school is staffing. We have used a staffing company for the past seven years. We had a problem with some of our staff finding jobs over the summer and not returning to our district. Some of our schools are in rural areas and finding staff can be difficult. We have about forty percent of our employees who are employed with the district; the other sixty percent are employed with the staffing company. 

They do the hiring, which takes away from me having to do interviews and the rest of the hiring process. If, later on, the person doesn't work out, we just let the staffing company know and they replace that person. We use the company for substitutes too. I can focus on other back-to-school things instead of employees. It's a big relief not to worry about staff.

Cindy Jensen
Food & Nutrition Services Director, School District of New Berlin
New Berlin, WI

  • Making sure all staff (especially those with little education, if any, beyond high school) get their continuing education credits in. Trying to get staff to take ownership of their now-required continuing education has been a challenge!
  • Getting staff (since they don't sit at a computer) to complete any annual online training can be a challenge. 
  • Finding a date that the majority of the staff can attend a department inservice/meeting.

Stephanie Dillard
Child Nutrition Director, Geneva County School District
Geneva, AL

Everything with back-to-school is challenging! Here are a couple of my personal challenges: 

  • Equipment not working during school start-up. We have now taken steps for the managers to test all equipment prior to the start of school.
  • Processing free/reduced applications while managing day-to-day operations is a huge challenge. I really try to have all other tasks completed before school start-up. We have manager's meetings and inservice training to determine if we have any immediate issues that may need to be addressed before school start-up. Those make things a little easier.
  • Software issues: it seems like all your computers and software work when you leave at the end of the school year, but nothing works when you return. I have all my managers turn all computers on before school starts and check all software to make sure it’s running smoothly.

Angela Haney
Student Nutrition Director, Los Lunas Schools
Los Lunas, NM

In order to respond to the volume of questions and concerns held by Kindergarten parents, we attend Kindergarten roundup. We have a welcome letter with all the FAQ’s to new parents, we have a welcome letter for returning parents, and we have each of these for both standard and CEP schools.  The letters are in the Kindergarten packets, on our website, published in the back-to-school edition of the local newspaper, and handed out to new parents by the school secretaries.  We also have the welcome letter available at the summer food meal sites.

Sometimes I think parents just want reassurance and they go to the department that makes the most sense to them.  Parents may not understand how to find the person to explain the Kindergarten math program but they do know that Student Nutrition will talk to them about food. Often, after the parent has exhausted all the Student Nutrition questions, they want to ask Transportation and Curriculum questions. Luckily, our phone system lets us transfer the parent directly to those departments.

For some reason, having the online F&R application has cut down the number of phone calls tremendously.   

Todd Bedenbaugh
Director of Student Nutrition, Lexington School District 05
Irmo, SC

The biggest issue/headache is conducting back-to-school training/professional standards, such as training to ensure compliance with USDA Regulations. I tackled it by contacting the South Carolina Department of Education; they are a great resource in providing trainers for districts. My advice is to plan for the training and schedule the trainers as early as possible because everyone needs the same training at basically the same time. 

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