Months after breakfast services were temporarily canceled on some campuses in the Southern San Francisco Unified School District due to a staff shortage, a number of solutions have been offered to officials to improve and potentially rebuild the meal service program overwhelmed.
Fran Debost, the former district director of nutrition services and distribution, addressed district administrators in a study session on Thursday, October 21, and detailed the disruptions the district has faced while trying to serve thousands of students a day since the state instituted free meals for all students regardless of household income
The district saw a 27% increase in attendance at meal services. The increase was most felt in middle and high schools, which saw a 44% and 75% increase respectively in the number of breakfasts served when comparing current consumption to the 2018-19 school year.
This surge in attendance, coupled with a staff shortage, has led the district to temporarily halt breakfast services at its six middle and high schools. Debost, who noted she has long been an advocate for breakfast services, called the move heartbreaking but necessary.
The small team of 40 people, not counting the three drivers, operated with nine vacancies and three people on extended sick leave. He is in desperate need of four part-time site managers who can oversee the operation and complete paperwork, and four part-time assistants.
Filling out the roles has also been made difficult due to a testing requirement that largely disqualifies non-English speaking applicants who have difficulty taking the test. To bypass the test, the California School Employee Association is expected to vote to remove the merit district classification that requires employers to select the best candidate after a rigorous performance process.
In addition to the pressure, a vacant managerial post is temporarily filled by the supervisor of nutrition services, Teri Inocencio.
âThis year is a difficult year for all nutrition service departments in all districts. Staff are a problem everywhere, âsaid Debost, adding that he would remain available to support the district for as long as needed.
Part-time positions have been the most difficult to fill, she said, encouraging the district to consider raising salaries for nutrition service workers. A 13% salary increase was previously taken to attract employees, but these additional funds depended on adequate funding in the cafeteria fund.
A significant drop in participation in food services during the pandemic forced the district to cut the extra dollars. Debost suggested that greater participation now might justify returning increases, especially given the state funding that now supports the program.
The district has benefited from a partnership with the Adult Transition Program which connects young people aged 18 to 22 with developmental disabilities with businesses and organizations to develop professional skills. With Nutritional Services, Debost said students prepare and serve food and then clean up.
Administrator John Baker, who shared his strong disappointment with the district’s suspension of breakfast services, suggested other students could potentially work for the before or after school program for pay or a work experience. Dr Jay Spaulding, deputy superintendent of human resources, said the district is already considering the idea.
Beyond additional employees and improved wages, Debost advocated for infrastructure improvements that could lead to greater efficiency. A grant of $ 75,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture enabled the department to purchase ovens and tilting stoves.
But the district is still in need of more appliances and is requesting a grant of up to $ 100,000 from the Second Harvest Food Bank. Additional equipment, like two ovens in each kitchen, would allow lunch staff who often work alone in small schools to better meet the growing number of meals in demand, Debost said.
Cafeterias are also not equipped to serve more than one line of students at a time, forcing staff to serve around 33 students per minute from a single file. The lines have moved slowly this year, as students reported, but could end up moving even slower once staff start collecting student PIN information next year for a future audit.
Ted O, assistant superintendent of business services, said his staff had started looking for an architect who could examine the cafeteria facilities for potential upgrades, but finding and hiring someone “will take a long time.”
To deal with short-term queues, Debost said the district could also implement a two-meal system that divides high school students into two 30-minute meal slots. Spaulding said the idea has received strong support from students, parents and staff, but requires additional work to accommodate teaching time.
As a long-term solution, Debost said the district could adopt a food court model adopted in other districts, which would allow students to help themselves at stations with a variety of items and pay. .
No formal decision was made during Thursday’s study session, not knowing what action the district will take. Still, administrators praised Debost for coming back with ideas to improve the program even though he no longer works with the district.
The two trustees Patricia Murray and Chialin Shieh also congratulated Debost for having thought of innovative solutions.
âI appreciate that you are always looking for new and better ways to do things,â Murray said. “No idea is too big for you to go looking for.”
Vaccination mandates, teachers’ remuneration
During the study session, district officials also discussed a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students that would require the injections ahead of the state schedule. Without a localized warrant, students would be subject to state requirements that required people aged 16 and older to get vaccinated after Jan. 1, since the Pfizer vaccine has full federal authorization.
If full federal authorization for students 12 and older is not approved by the end of the year, a vaccine requirement for younger students would begin July 1. If it arrives before the end of the year, the date of January 1 would apply.
Students aged 11 and under are still not allowed to receive a vaccine, but authorities expect emergency clearance to be granted in November with full approval expected next spring.
The district would need to put in place the infrastructure to implement the mandates, whether or not they precede those of the state. Spaulding said the district would need at least a month to develop a vaccine tracking system and remote options for students with religious or medical exemptions.
District teachers used the talks as an opportunity to rally for higher salaries, arguing that in addition to safe schools and proper meals, students need high-quality teachers to lead classes.
The district offers teachers a salary range ranging from $ 58,043 to $ 108,128, depending on experience and level of education. But educators have pointed to the nearly two years of work under the pandemic and the rising cost of living as proof that they have won and deserve increases.