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Dell City ISD's New Evening Meal Program is Thriving – School Board Hears Proposals on “Stakeholders Committee,” Livestock Pens

Dell City ISD is poised to get federal grant funding, to support a new school initiative that is providing free evening meals to students, and to other youth in the community.


The Dell City school board voted Oct. 24 to approve the district's participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program will reimburse the school for meals served to children and youth participating in after-school programs.


The school began serving evening meals on Oct. 1. Supper is served Mondays through Thursdays, from the end of the school day until 5:45 p.m., and supper menus are available in the school's main office and on the district's website.


Supt. Ruben Cervantes told school board members the program has been a big success.


“Out of 67 students, every day we have between 30 and 36 students coming for supper,” Cervantes said. “So about half of our students are having supper at school.”


Principal Carlos A. Contreras told school board members that the free meals are available not only to students, but to all local youth, “from newborns to 18 year olds,” and that “everyone in the community is welcome.” Adults can purchase meals for a modest price.


Cervantes said the expansion of meal services at the school began before the current school year – when the cafeteria began serving breakfast and lunch to students attending summer school. Then, Cervantes said, Contreras suggested the district expand cafeteria offerings further. The school then identified the grant funding, which would cover expenses for evening meals and for a staff person to prepare and serve them.


“Mr. Contreras said, 'Why can't we have supper?'” Cervantes said. “We decided to try it. Everything is paid for out of the grant – and it won't cost us anything.”


Supper service helps meet the needs of students who stay late at school, for tutoring, athletics or extracurriculars. But administrators want to make sure the meals are available to all students. The school is now beginning to prepare “sack” meals in the evening – so students who ride the bus can take meals with them. Contreras said that could increase participation to about 75 percent of Dell City students.


In other business at the Oct. 24 meeting, Chuck Wilson, coach and Ag teacher, presented two items for discussion and future consideration to school board members.


Wilson is completing a master's degree to be certified as a school principal, and as the “capstone project” for that degree, he is proposing creating a “stakeholders committee” for the district. The purpose of the committee would be to develop a “collaborative community,” Wilson said. Individuals representing different aspects of the school and community – administrators, teachers and parents, local business owners and others – would develop a shared vision for the school and its future.


Wilson said his inspiration for the project came from one of the books he encountered in his master's program – called “Breakthrough Principals.” Wilson said the book includes compelling data that school success depends not just on what happens in the classroom or on campus, but on broader “buy-in” and investment from the community.


The group would not be a “decision-making committee,” Wilson said, “but would be collaborating to try to make this the best school district it can be.”


Wilson said he would like the committee to include one or two school board members, administrators, at least one teacher from both the high-school and elementary levels, business leaders and perhaps one or more students. The committee could meet monthly. The school board will likely revisit the proposal at a subsequent meeting.


As Ag teacher, Wilson is working to increasing participation by Dell City School students in the county stockshow, and other stockshow events.


Wilson said that, in his efforts to “renew interest, one of the things that keeps popping up in conversation with students and parents is that our students have a lack of facilities to feed out a stockshow animal.”


The Dell Valley fair board is allowing students to keep animals at the fairgrounds this year, but Wilson said that, in the long run, it might benefit students for the school to construct its own pens. He noted that the school's old practice field, which is not currently used, has access to both water and electricity, and that Ag mechanics students could build pens there, in a way that would further their learning. The school board could revisit the matter in the future, as well.


“I just want to start discussion,” Wilson said. “I think it would pique students' interest in stockshow. We don't want not having a place to feed an animal to be the only reason a kid doesn't take on that responsibility.”