A state review of the Ketchikan School District’s lunch program shows deficiencies in training, meeting standards and sometimes simply having enough milk.
The Ketchikan School Board discussed that review during its regular meeting on Wednesday. Board President Matt Eisenhower said audits that catch simple clerical errors are common and understandable.
“But there’s clearly more here and I’m very disturbed as to what I read,” he said. “I will take this seriously, and I’m sure the board will as well. On the second page, one of the findings, the first bullet point, about meal pattern and nutrition quality, the very first bullet point said ‘at Ketchikan High School, all required components were not available through the entire meal service.’ I think that’s a fancy way of saying they ran out of food.”
In November, a state Department of Education team reviewed the local district’s program for compliance with federal regulations. The review shows the district needs to be more careful about counting lunches and putting them in the right category.
The review also notes that not all meal components were offered consistently to students; records were not available from some schools; some snacks didn’t meet standards; and district food service employees needed more training.
Eisenhower said he’s disappointed with the report, overall, because providing meals shouldn’t be that difficult.
“I’m thinking to myself, if we can’t do these types of things well, why would our community support us and trust us in the more complicated things of education?” he said. “I know I’m frustrated, but I just want to (make) darn sure that administration hears that this is not good. We can’t get our lunches straight.”
The district must follow certain regulations to be reimbursed through the national school lunch program. The state Department of Education and Early Development provided a corrective action plan for the district to fix shortcomings. That includes a financial penalty of 6 cents per lunch until the issues are fixed.
Acting Superintendent Beth Lougee said she will update the board at its next meeting about corrective actions the district has been taking since November.
“Because this has been an ongoing process since day one within our business office,” she said. “This Saturday, we’ll have our big training. We’ll have feedback from that. Then our plan to move forward is every August, that just becomes our mandatory process for training.”
Also Wednesday, the Ketchikan School Board appointed Tom Heutte as an interim board member. Heutte was the only applicant for a seat left vacant after former Board Vice President Kim Hodne resigned.
Heutte took the oath of office and assumed his seat immediately after the board voted unanimously to appoint him. He will serve until the next regular local election.