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November 27, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: EDUCATION:

Prices may rise but so may food’s appeal

Board puts off hike; food services enlists Wolfgang Puck to help with recipes

Image

Steve Marcus

Kindergarten student Jeremy Smith, center, eats breakfast last week at Cortez Elementary School. The Clark County School Board on Thursday put off raising prices for most meals by 25 cents, but a request was made to add the item to the agenda for the board’s next meeting. With the hike, Jeremy’s breakfast would cost $1.25.

The School Board didn’t vote Thursday on whether to approve a 25-cent price increase in campus cafeterias after the topic wound up on the agenda for discussion only.

Items that are up for a vote must be listed on the agenda as action items to alert the public to possible changes in regulations or policy.

There appeared to be confusion over whether the School Board’s permission was needed to raise the prices, or if the district’s budget policy allowed the food services division to make the decision on its own, based on its low cash reserves.

Because the School Board had to approve last year’s price increase, this year’s request should also be put to a vote, said Vice President Carolyn Edwards, who asked that it be added to the next meeting’s action agenda.

The district’s food services division is required to be self-supporting, and draws no money from the general fund. Rising food and personnel costs have left the division with just $8.5 million in cash, down from $28 million at the end of the prior academic year. That’s enough to run operations for a month, said Charles Anderson, food services director.

“We are, in effect, living paycheck to paycheck,” Anderson said.

The district’s policy — endorsed by the Agriculture Department — is to have enough money to operate for three months.

The 25-cent-per-meal increase would raise elementary school breakfasts to $1.25 and lunches to $1.75. At the secondary level, breakfasts would increase to $1.50 and lunches would hold at $3.

Anderson touted several initiatives that are expected to help boost the division’s bottom line, including getting celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck’s help with recipes.

Student focus groups are tasting new dishes before they are added to the district-

wide menu.

The results from the elementary school student-tasters require little interpretation, Anderson said.

“It’s either yucky or it’s awesome,” Anderson said. “And they’re quick to tell you that.”

•••

The U.S. Education Department has awarded more than $32 million in grants to promote campus safety and healthy students, but none of the money is headed to Nevada.

The news came as a surprise to the Clark County School District’s grants office, which until last week was confident about its chances of success. It learned its application wasn’t among the winners from a news release.

The district had asked for just under $9 million for programs and services at campuses identified as at a high risk for violence. Local law enforcement, social services and community groups signed on to the plan, said Rosemary Virtuoso, coordinator of crisis response and student threats at the district.

The proposal grew out of town hall meetings and workshops in the wake of the shooting death of Palo Verde student Christopher Privett in February 2007. Discussions with students about their concerns, as well as their suggestions, played a significant role in developing the plan, Virtuoso said.

The rejected application “was the best one we ever did,” she said.

Virtuoso said she holds out some hope that Clark County might be included in a second, smaller round of school safety grants that will be awarded in the fall.

•••

Paul Culley Elementary School’s fourth graders make an annual trek to Carson City as part of their studies about state government and history.

This year’s trip was particularly enlightening, students told the School Board at Thursday’s meeting.

In a tour of the Legislature, Daniela Richardson learned from lawmakers that “every day, every bill was their homework and they had to read a big book of them.”

And then there was the Nevada Supreme Court’s safety protocol, which made quite an impression.

“Everybody that had hats on had to take them off because they might be in disguise or hide things to open doors,” fourth grader Christopher Villasenor-Vel said.

School Board President Terri Janison asked if he felt extra safe with all that security.

“I felt like I was being watched,” Christopher said, drawing laughter and applause from the audience.

Emily Richmond can be reached at 259-8829 or at [email protected].

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