Jul 28, 2014
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School Board Mulls Nutrition, Nepotism Policies

The district's policies regarding nutrition and the hiring of family members as coaches dominated discussion at Monday's school board work session meeting.

School Board Mulls Nutrition, Nepotism Policies

On Monday, October 3, the Upper Dublin School Board met at the for its monthly work session. At these meetings, members publicly discuss items that will be voted on during the following week's legislative meeting. Read on to find out about what the board discussed this week, and what it will act on when it next convenes on Monday, October 10.

Board decides to keep 'nepotism' policy, limiting the hiring of coaches related to district employees

What: Upper Dublin School District currently has a policy (301.1, 401.1, 501.1) that limits the hiring of substitute, temporary, and extra-curricular employees who are related to district employees. Policy chair David Robinson proposed that they strike the extra-curricular restriction, arguing that often times a relative might be the best person for the job, and that the section of the policy regarding extra-curricular employees is waived on a nearly annual basis. Board president Michael Paston argued against, saying that it would open the door for favoritism and unfair pressure on those with hiring responsibilities.

Who said what:

David Robinson, school board member:

  • "The reason why the policy is so good as it currently stands is that it's, to my knowledge, the strictest nepotism policy in the area…and I like that, but the question has been that when there is a candidate who comes forward and is related to someone working in the district, whether it's a violation of policy to waive the policy, or whether it's OK for the board to waive the policy."
  • "There are certain circumstances where we don't have a choice, where there's only one applicant or where the one applicant, who happens to be the relative, is by far the best applicant."

Michael Paston, school board president:

  • "Now if the superintendent's brother is one of ten applicants, he becomes the best even if he's not the best. Because what subordinate athletic director is going to say 'I have somebody better?'… The reason you have the policy is to take the human nature piece out of the equation, and give people the reason based on policy, to not go there in the first place."

What's next:  The board ultimately agreed to leave the policy as is, but asked administrators to include a question on applications regarding relation to any employees, in order to make the issue more transparent. Board members also stated they could exercise their right to waive the policy in certain cases if necessary.

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Board discusses changes to nutrition and wellness policy, Nutrition in Schools states greivances

What: The Upper Dublin School Board has been preparing alterations to its Nutrition and Wellness guidelines since last spring, due to changes in federal regulations and out of desire to improve standards inside the district. Nutrition in the Schools, a local parental initiative, has been vocal at meetings and a force in the creation of an advisory committee-- a coalition of parents, teachers and food services staff who work together to generate new ideas for healthy foods.

The board discussed changes to the policy, including the wording of the goal of reducing the use and sale of highly processed foods, and new rules that encourage teachers to select healthy options (i.e. not cupcakes) for birthday parties, and limit celebrations to once a month. Nutrition in the Schools members used the community input section to praise the district for recent changes, but also filed grievances that they felt that the advisory committee was being left in the dark on many food services decisions.

Who said what:

Jill Florin, Dresher, Nutrition in the Schools founder:

  • "It seems as though, according to the latest information from the wellness committee meeting, that principals and teachers are well aware of the initiative and are happy to be supporting it… However, there has not been any marketing to support the change [to healthier food]."
  • "Instead of utilizing the taste tests for the newest addition to the menu, we are taste testing things like sauce and sweet potatoes… as per the new wellness policy regulation, the advisory committee is supposed to approve any items prior to them being taste tested or added to the menu."
  • "At this time, the advisory committee has not been involved at all for the September, nor October, taste test. In addition, some of the items that were listed on the September menu had been substituted without parents' knowledge."

Carolyn Smith, Maple Glen, supporter of Nutrition in the Schools:

  • "Will there be any administrative regulation or oversight on food service, reporting on interim goals, so that we don't just have a policy and not follow through?… I'm hoping we can have some reporting or accountability that can keep us on track… otherwise the policy is at risk of being a toothless tiger."

Michael Pladus, district superintendent:

  • "Children are like adults, when given choices, people won't always take what's best for them. So the challenge for us is can we come up with food that's more nutritious, that tastes good, that kids want to buy, that we can purchase and prepare in a cost efficient manner?"
  • "From an accountability standpoint, what we have to do is continue to meet, continue to talk, look at the menu items that are available, look at the bottom line financially where we are, and I think the accountability is just in ongoing communications."

David Robinson, school board member: 

  • "Our administration, including [food service director] Patti Dell'Aringa, has been working extremely hard toward a systemic improvement to our food services department, and we're getting there."

What's next:

The board will vote on the specific changes to the policy at its October 10, 2011 meeting. Administrators have said that increased, continuing communication between the district, advisory committee and parents is the solution to the complaints of community members.

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Local church asks for $44,000 in tax abatement

What: The Mar Thoma Church Philadelphia purchased property to begin a new congregation at 1085 Camphill Road, Fort Washington, on December 28, 2010. They began paying taxes for the property while applying for non-profit, tax exempt status. The church was granted the status in September 2011, meaning they will no longer pay property taxes beginning January 1st, and has asked the school board for return and abatement of $44,000 in taxes previously collected or scheduled for collection.

Who said what:

Mar Thoma representative:

  • "Our request to the school board is two-fold. One, tax abatement for the taxes that the church has paid to date through June 30, 2011, approximately $14,400. The second request is for a waiver of the school taxes to the church from July 1, 2011 to July 30, 2012, and that amount is approximately $30,000"

What's next: The board motioned to vote on the matter at the next legislative meeting on Monday, October 10.

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Other items discussed:

  • Recommendation that the board approve PlanCon, Part I, a change order to the high school building project.
  • Recommendation that the board retain Lukens & Wolf real estate appraisers and consultants for appraisal of 600-602 Office Center Drive, not to exceed $12,000.
  • Recommendation that the board discuss facility use permit request by Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and waive fees for an October 15 "Battle of the Bands" concert at Sandy Run Middle School
  • Approval of the purchase of a Webus/Telvue player for district broadcasting, not to exceed $6,500.
  • Approval of bus schedules for the 2011-12 school year as currently filed.

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