This fall, the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) and LEAN Frog sponsored a contest to recognize Best Practices and Innovations in the non-instructional departments of K-12 public schools. These Best Practices and Innovations have impacted student achievement and promoted the effective and efficient use of public resources statewide during the last two school years.
From Child Nutrition to Transportation to Student Services, non-instructional departments and programs in public schools across Alabama are implementing creative and sustainable Best Practices. These Best Practices improve students’ well-being, help prepare them for successful futures, and encourage the involvement of school staff, parents, and the local community. The entries LEAN Frog received boast some impressive results:
- A 63% increase in high school breakfast participation rates
- Promotion of unity and shared responsibility
- A 5% increase in the number of students with perfect attendance
- Assistance with motor skills for Special Education students
- Improved ACT test scores
- Dramatic decreases in detention
- Over 98,000 hot meals served to children 18 and under during the summer
- Reductions in truancy, discipline issues, and tardiness
LEAN Frog and the Alabama Association of School Boards congratulate all of the school systems that submitted entries and thank them for all they do on behalf of Alabama public education. Award presentations and the winning videos and slides will be featured at the 2014 AASB Conference held December 3-6 in Birmingham, Alabama.
The 2014 Alabama’s Best Non-Instructional Practices Award winners are . . .
Winning Entry ($3,000 Grand Prize)
Tarrant City Schools – A Creative Approach to Solving Child Nutrition Challenges
Many schools have seen drops in their student breakfast and lunch participation rates since converting to recipes compliant with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act law. Even among those students still participating, some Child Nutrition Programs are reporting food waste when complying with standards set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Alabama State Department of Education. Schools across the nation are grappling with the question, “How do you make nutritious meals that kids enjoy eating?”
Tarrant Intermediate School students demonstrate healthy approaches to problem-solving. CLICK the photo to see Tarrant’s video submission.
The 2014 “Alabama’s Best” award-winning entry (and winner of the $3,000 grand prize) addresses this question and focuses on how Tarrant City Schools improved their Child Nutrition Program through the implementation of a series of best practices over the last two years. “With all of the changes that have come about with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, we are continuing to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice and we are striving to implement as many requests as possible within the HHFKA framework. It is an on-going process and we will continue to tweak the program as needed,” said CNP Director Kelley Javinett.
Through their research, Tarrant City Schools discovered that “reduced-price” families missed qualifying for “free” meals by less than $500 per year. As a result, they implemented a Universal Breakfast Program in the spring of 2012. This program increased breakfast participation across the whole district. The greatest impact was at Tarrant Elementary, with participation increasing from 54% to 95%. Later in the 2012-13 school year, Tarrant City Schools implemented the Provision 2 option in the federal School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program, thus providing free breakfast and lunch across the entire district, resulting in simplified paperwork, streamlined meal service, and further increased student participation. In the spring of 2013, student focus groups were conducted on student preferences, with the data used to drive purchasing decisions and meal preparation. Items such as hot wings and buffalo chicken pizza were added to lunch menus. Based on student feedback, the switch was made to 8 oz. plastic milk containers versus traditional cartons, resulting in an increase in milk consumption by 30% daily. In the spring of 2014, a “Kitchen Cook Off” was held to determine entrée appeal and taste. This data was used to drive Child Nutrition professional development activities. The sustainable results are increased student participation in breakfast and lunch, greater acceptance of the menu, and more engaged students and staff who feel their voices have been heard.
Runner-Up Winning Entry ($1000 Prize)
Huntsville City Schools – A Role Model for Implementation and Impact
As the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service points out, “Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child’s need for good nutrition.” The USDA established the Summer Food Service Program to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals and snacks throughout the summer months when they are out of school. Unfortunately, fewer than eight percent of Alabama students eligible to receive meals in the summer were actually getting them.
Westlawn Middle School students saying a prayer before eating their supper.
Huntsville City Schools’ award-winning second place entry highlights the system’s successful implementation of this program. Free meals meeting Federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children. Huntsville City Schools’ unique approach involved city-wide collaborations such as partnering with other local organizations like Girls Inc. and other groups who have active summer programs, partnering with the city of Huntsville to provide free bus transportation to children who need a ride to school so they can eat, and setting up Alabama’s only SFSP to provide three hot meals per day. This resulted in almost 100,000 children served. The number of summer meals served to children across the city was three times as many hot meals provided in all SFSP programs across the entire state of Alabama combined! As a result, Huntsville City Schools has been identified as a state, regional, and national role model for implementing SFSP. However, it is the thankfulness of the students and their families that brings the greatest satisfaction to those that implemented the program.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe this picture (students at Westlawn Middle school praying before eating a hot supper meal) tells you why Huntsville City Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski, along with the Huntsville City School Board, supports the Summer Foodservice Program,” said Child Nutrition Director, Joey Vaughn.
Runner-Up Winning Entry ($1000 Prize)
Sylacauga City Schools – A Committed Team Dedicated to Sustainable Interventions
“Response to Intervention is not a special education initiative; it is a general education obligation.”
Marcus Johnson uttered these words at the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony. The 2011 National Superintendent of the Year, who coached four Sanger(CA) Unified Schools District schools from the bottom 10% in student achievement to National Blue Ribbon status, discussed the importance of teamwork during his featured presentation at the 2014 Ceremony. He described a team as “a group of people working together interdependently to meet a common goal and holding each other accountable.”
Sylacauga Success on Saturday–engaging our students in every way!
Sylacauga City Schools’ award winning second place entry, “SOS — Success on Saturday”, demonstrates the role that teamwork and dedication play in helping students achieve. Students from third through twelfth grades participate in math practice, Leader in Me activities, ENGAGE testing, counseling, school projects, credit recovery, and other supporting activities at no cost. The program takes place on Saturdays at three Sylacauga City Schools with over 200 students receiving tutoring, homework help, and life counseling. Administrators, counselors, and teachers provide personalized intervention and support; CNP workers provide breakfast, snack, and lunch; and the system’s bus drivers provide safe travel to and from the program.
The academic growth of SOS students is impressive. Retentions in the ninth and tenth grades have dramatically decreased, while there have been no retentions in the third through fifth and eighth grades in the past year. The program has garnered the support of students, parents, the community, and school staff. When asked to prioritize student support programs, principals unanimously choose SOS as their number one choice. As Carol Martin, Director of Instruction and Intervention remarked, “Parents now call and ask if their student can attend SOS, and students even ask to attend! They recognize what great results we are seeing. SOS is one of our most successful RTI interventions.”