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Orange County Schools Board of Education discusses equity and summer meal plans

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The Orange County Board of Education building sits on East King Street in Hillsborough on Monday, March 28, 2022.

The Orange County Schools Board of Education met on May 20 to discuss equity in OCS, its summer meals program and student meal pricing for the upcoming school year. 

What's new?

  • The board honored the district’s 13 school-level Teacher of the Year Award winners and officially announced Teresa Rogers-Thorpe, a second grade teacher at Pathways Elementary School, as the district-wide teacher of the year.
    • “The investment that you guys put in Orange County Schools teachers — it has the power to leave one feeling refreshed,” Rogers-Thorpe said. “I feel valued, and I feel invigorated and I thank you so much for this honor.”

What's changed?

  • The board held an Equity Task Force roundtable discussion where the Equity Task Force gave a presentation reviewing the group's purpose, sharing key projects and ongoing areas of discussion as well as providing an opportunity for community discussion.
    • The task force shared a video where teachers, administrators and students talked about the importance of equity in their everyday lives and why they think it is important. 
      • “If you’re intervening in the ways that students need and if you’re meeting students where they are, you’re going to have improved outcomes,” Meredith Maier, the principal at New Hope Elementary School said in the video. 
    • Key projects that the Equity Department has been working on include collecting data, creating a community dialogue and efforts to close opportunity gaps, Kumar Sathy, the OCS district equity facilitator, said
      • “Whatever the problem is, students are not the problem, so we need to put the ownership on the system to make changes to provide the opportunities that some students are not receiving and to continuously work to close those opportunity gaps,” he said
    • The Equity Task Force is working toward exploring N.C. state policy issues related to equity and creating a depolarized dialogue, Sathy said.
      • “We have to get to the point where we can at least listen to each other and not hear a buzzword or hear something that sounds like a political viewpoint and then just not connect with each other as human beings,” he said. “We have work to do with that.” 
  • Sara Pitts, the OCS director of school nutrition services, shared an update regarding the district’s summer meals program.
    • She said the goal of the program is to feed more children by making food more accessible.
      • “When the school year is over, some of our OCS families who utilize school meals daily to provide breakfast and lunch for their students may struggle with providing nutritional resources,” she said. “The summer meal program is designed to help families bridge that gap by providing a free meal to any child under the age of 18 at any of our participating sponsored sites.” 
    • The program will operate from June 10 through July 26, she said. 
  • Pitts also gave an update on the current status of the OCS school nutrition program regarding its anticipated increased expenses for the coming school year and measures that can be implemented to mitigate them.
    • School nutrition is an enterprise system — similar to a business — that must generate enough revenue to cover its expenses such as employee wages, food purchases, contract services, technology expenses and other indirect costs, she said. The program is dependent on high student participation. 
    • The program has and continues to operate in a deficit, due to labor and food costs as well as a decrease in participation since the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. 
    • She said increasing participation in the program is a must, and will be the top priority. 
      • According to the presentation, the district only served an average of 41 percent of students across its 13 schools eligible for free or reduced meals.
      • If 35 percent more breakfasts and 75 percent more lunches were served, the OCS Child Nutrition department would have received an additional $192,713 in federal funding during the 2023-24 school year, she said
    • Pitts recommended that paid meal prices remain the same for the 2024-25 school year. 
    • The board unanimously approved the student meal pricing plan. 

What's next? 

  • The board will meet next on June 10 in the Whitted Human Services Building in Hillsborough. 

@dthcitystate | city@dailytarheel.com

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