...and I learned quite a few things, most of them positive.
School Lunch Program
Since the implementation of Michelle Obama's Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act this year, the Greendale School District has actually seen a rise in the percentage of students who participate in the hot lunch program (1%). Now 1% isn't great, but given all of the early negative press about the program, and taking into consideration the pickiness of children, a 1% increase is a step in the right direction when it comes to kids eating MUCH healthier meals in schools.
Studies show that a child needs to be introduced to a "different" food between 8-10 times before they will consider eating it on their own. My kids are no different. Trying to get them to eat something besides Mac & Cheese for supper and snack on something other than carrots with loads of ranch dressing EVERY night is like pulling teeth. After numerous attempts, my son is finally eating salad (as long as it has ranch dressing on it). This is huge, since it was only last year that he wouldn't eat a burger that had lettuce on it until he tossed away the green stuff and said, "Yuck, salad."
A student survey actually found that 51% of the students at the high school had a favorable view of the new menu offerings, while 49% did not (when I was in high school I hated the lunch 95% of the time, so this is a major improvement). The survey also discovered though that a majority of students were not aware of the variety of types of foods (like fruit smoothies) offered at lunch time. A large "menu" of sorts will be placed outside the cafeteria hallway to inform students of ALL of the available offerings.
The GSD is working with Growing Power, Inc. a local non-profit located right in Milwaukee to help better connect with local organic farmers. School gardens were started in the Fall and are ready for planting in the Spring and home-grown vegetable will be served in school lunches.
Special Needs Students
I found out that 25% of the students in the GSD are classified as "Economically Disadvantaged," which I presume to mean living at or below the poverty level.
Seven percent of the students in GSD were classified as "Gifted and Talented." A troubling piece of data that school board member, Dr. Tom Slota picked up on is the fact that 0% of the economically disadvantaged students from the elementary and middle school levels were cross-classified as both gifted and talented and economically disadvantaged. At the high school level, only 4% of the economically disadvantaged students also qualified for the gifted and talented program.
When asked by members of the school board what teachers are doing to help challenge our gifted and talented students, staff noted that teachers are pre-testing before entering new units and if students pass out of the unit, work and lesson plans are adjusted for that student. They have also found that pulling G&T students out of the regular classroom is not as beneficial as keeping them in the regular classroom and pulling them out of resource for accelerated learning.
English Language Learners
Students who enter GSD not proficient in English are classified as English Language Learners. The program has five levels of proficiency. Level one is the lowest level. This year, 16 children in the Time For Learning (4K program) are level one English Language Learners.
From what I understood, 94% of ELL achieve native proficiency in English before graduating Greendale. The GSD reaches this goal by offering in-classroom support, direct language instruction and cultural support for the students, all by the ESL teachers. "Cultural support' means helping to involve ELL students in social activities with their peers, like games and friend-making.
I do not have time to make all of the school board meetings, but I do my best to attend when my schedule on Monday night allows. I do however feel it especially necessary to attend each and every school board meeting between now and the Spring election, where three seats are up for grabs on the school board. And there has been much hoopla about Dr. Tharp and the leadership of the school board, which is why I found it VERY strange that only about three parents, including myself, were in attendance at this school board meeting.
Also in attendance were a couple of students, a few special education teachers, principals, lunch program personnel, Kathy Wied Vincent (running for school board) and Roger Dalklin (also running) and David Miller (Greendale Historical Society & everything else).
No (ZERO) comments or concerns from residents were recorded at the beginning of the meeting. Much to my surprise (not really) Dr. Tharp did NOT spend time "downloading apps" on his ipad, but instead offered good feedback and advice, as well as asked questions of presenters, as did EACH member of the school board.
From actually attending a school board meeting, it seems as though most of the "concerns" about the leadership of the school board are unfounded. And all of the gripes that have plagued the Patch are nothing more than sour grapes in a case of a few people with busy keyboards and big mouths (but no time for school board meetings) who are more worried about who is NOT the Superintendent than who IS actually the Superintendent, and who is NOT on the school board than who IS on the school board.
Maybe we should not "judge" these people too harshly before we have a good handle on the good that they are actually doing for our children. And yes, those in the loop know exactly what I mean when I say, "judge."