Articles in the Wellness category

NSBA applauds USDA action on school nutrition regulations

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is pleased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent decision to make permanent the temporary relief from a provision of the federal school lunch program that limited lean protein and whole grains at school meals.  However, NSBA is still urging USDA to make other regulatory changes to give school districts more flexibility in the operation of the program.

“We applaud USDA for listening to parents and school leaders who said these restrictions were unnecessary and not in the best interests of students’ health,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The program still needs additional changes to give school districts more flexibility to provide nutritious school meals and ensure that students won’t go hungry because of unreasonable limits on the amount of food schools may serve.”

A permanent provision on whole grains and lean protein was one of four changes requested in the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, which was introduced in December by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and is endorsed by NSBA.

“The USDA’s announcement comes after a tremendous amount of pressure from parents, school administrators, and Congress,” Noem said. “What they are offering is a step in the right direction and adopts some of the provisions offered in my bill to give relief. A more permanent legislative fix and even greater flexibility is needed, however, in order to give parents and school administrators the tools they need when planning our kids’ lunch programs.”

Among the other issues Noem’s bill addresses are flexibility for school districts struggling to comply with new standards for school breakfast; items sold outside the federal school meal program such as those in vending machines, fundraisers and school stores; and federally mandated prices for unsubsidized school meals.

Lawrence Hardy|January 6th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Wellness|Tags: , , |

NSBA secures time to assess school district impact of new regulations for food sold in schools

Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) release of their new Interim Final Rule on Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued this statement:

“NSBA praises USDA’s decision to follow NSBA’s recommendation to issue an Interim Final Rule rather than a Final Rule. NSBA will carefully be reviewing the Interim Final Rule for financial and operational impact on school districts.

“America’s school boards are deeply committed to fostering a healthy and positive learning environment for children to achieve their full potential. Most school districts have already taken meaningful steps to improve the quality of foods available from vending machines, a la carte lines, and other non-National School Lunch Program sources.

“Yet, we must acknowledge the budget and labor constraints that school districts already face in light of sequestration and the ongoing fiscal crisis for our schools, communities, and states. At a time when education is acknowledged as a priority for America’s success and competitiveness, it is imperative that federal policy—including implementation of the child nutrition regulations—assures that educational systems are supported, not undermined by unfunded mandates or under-resourced requirements. School nutrition programs simply cannot be successful unless the school districts providing them have sufficient resources and local authority to administer them effectively.

“NSBA expressed concerns about the draft Rule during the public comment period and submitted a letter on April 9, 2013 to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. NSBA’s recommendations encouraged an Interim Final Rule be developed to review the financial and operational impact and unanticipated consequences of the new standards to reflect a better understanding of on-the-ground impact before a Final Rule is issued.

“NSBA will provide additional feedback to the USDA to urge that this and all other provisions of the reauthorization will not challenge America’s schools with a new funding burden at a time when there are critical budget shortfalls.”
- See more at: http://www.nsba.org/Newsroom/Press-Releases/NSBA-Secures-Time-to-Assess-Impact-of-New-Regulations-on-Local-School-Districts.html#sthash.1O3PUyPh.dpuf

Alexis Rice|June 28th, 2013|Categories: Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Wellness|Tags: , , , |

Supporting healthy learning environments

April 30, 2013 marks the 11th annual National Healthy Schools Day, a growing national movement that works to improve schools’ indoor air quality as it adversely impacts women and children. School environments play an important role in the health and academic success of children. Each school day, 55 million children and 7 million adults — 20 percent of the total U.S. population and 98 percent of all children—spend their days inside school buildings. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was a sponsor of this year’s National Healthy Schools Day.

National Health School Day

April 30, 2013 is National Health School Day

“Schools play a critical role in addressing the physical, mental, social, and environmental factors related to health and well-being that can affect student learning,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director. “NSBA and local school boards across the country are committed to developing effective policies and practices to create healthy learning environments to help position students for success in school and throughout their lifetimes. We commend the 11th annual National Healthy Schools Day as an important way to raise awareness about the need for healthy learning environments in America’s schools.”

This year, in recognition of the importance of a healthy school environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded nearly $750,000 in “capacity building” grants to five states — Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These grants will be used to help states implement comprehensive K-12 school environmental health programs using the new Voluntary Guidelines for States: Development and Implementation of a School Environmental Health Program.

To learn more what your school district can do to create healthy learning environments in your schools, go to National Health Schools Day and EPA’s schools websites.

Alexis Rice|April 30th, 2013|Categories: School Boards, School Buildings, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , |

The week in blogs: Alleviating poverty, improving schools

Does “family income itself” determine whether or not a child learns? That’s what progressive educators believe, charges Harvard Professor Paul Peterson in a recent piece for Education Next.

Of course, Peterson is distorting the views of those in the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education coalition, who say that out-of-school factors such as a child’s health, nutrition, safety, and housing – all of which are influenced by a lack of adequate income — can have a big impact on that child’s ability to achieve  in school. Therefore, they say, we as a society need to address these out-of-school concerns.

This should be pretty well-accepted stuff by now – indeed, concepts that people like Coalition for Community Schools Director Martin J. Blank shouldn’t have to be called on to defend. Nonetheless, Blank does a admirable job of explaining the coalition’s position in “Education is a Both-and Issue” in the Huffington Post. The “both-and” refers, naturally, to improving both the schools and the conditions in which disadvantaged children live.

Bilingual education has taken a lot of hits of late from English-only supporters, but did you know that developing skills in two languages simultaneously can make you smarter? Read Joanne Jacobs, who links to a fascinating story in the New York Times.

Lawrence Hardy|March 26th, 2012|Categories: Student Achievement, Urban Schools, Wellness|Tags: , , |

Q&A with Chef Jeff Henderson

Jeff Henderson is an award-winning culinary figure known simply as Chef Jeff — although simple would hardly be the way to describe his rise to fame. Growing up poor in southern California, Henderson quickly fell in with one bad crowd after another. When he was 24, he was nabbed for drug peddling and was sent to prison for nearly a decade.

While incarcerated, Henderson worked in the prison kitchen where he found sustenance and salvation in cooking. Today, he is a New York Times best-selling author and television personality who will be speaking at NSBA’s 72nd Annual Conference in Boston in April. The self-made entrepreneur recently took time out of his busy schedule to provide some food for thought to ASBJ Senior Editor Naomi Dillon.

When did your passion for food ignite?

I was placed on pots-and-pans detail in the prison kitchen. I realized the kitchen staff, like in any restaurant, gets to eat the leftover food. I thought, “OK, maybe this is the place to be.” The opportunity came for me to learn to cook by helping the head inmate cooks, and I got very good at it. I was very fast at seasoning and organization. Six months after I worked in the kitchen full time, the head cook left and I was promoted to head inmate cook and eventually head inmate baker. I had to be creative with the ingredients — onions, garlic powder, salt, pepper, top ramen noodle seasoning packages, canned tuna, a piece of bell pepper, some squeeze cheese. Whatever it was, we’d create these dishes.

You re-entered society with gusto, becoming the first African American to be named executive  chef at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas. How did you make that transition?

I took the same drive and tenacity that I had on the streets into the corporate world. Prison makes you very disciplined, and so do the streets. That added to my ability to move quickly up the food chain in the corporate world. I was the first one in and last one out every day. I studied the best talent around me. I bought the same shoes they wore, the same chef jackets, the same eyewear, and the same books. I watched how they moved through the kitchen, how they held knives, how they seasoned, how they held a pot handle, a sauté pan, and incorporated it all into what I do.

What does food represent to you?

It means a lot of things. Early in my life, it was survival. In prison it was an opportunity for me to eat better. After prison, food became a career. It became that vehicle for my redemption. The power of food is like a metaphor; food changes life. I get e-mails and letters and blogs and tweets from people who talk about how food changed their lives.

What is the Chef Jeff Project?

It was born out of my Los Angeles business called the Posh Urban Cuisine, where we catered to Hollywood celebrities and corporate executives. I would always hire at-risk kids through Job Corps, Pro Start, and local culinary trade schools. I would take these young people into multimillion-dollar estates and catering events and teach them how to cook. Many of these kids had social challenges. They didn’t smile, they sagged their pants, and their facial expressions were intimidating. So I wound up teaching these kids the importance of self-presentation. Then the Food Network reached out to me after I was on the Oprah Winfrey show and said, “Chef Jeff we want you to do a show.”

So how are you able to break through to the kids you work with?

Most teachers don’t come from poverty so they don’t understand the mindset. They don’t understand the trauma that these kids have been through. Until you understand that, you can’t connect. You can’t get them to buy in to the idea that education pays off. You get them to buy in by building up their self-esteem. You have to help them discover their gift and figure out what they want to do [in life] and cultivate that. In my travels, I meet kids who have never been on an airplane, never saw the ocean, never been to a white-tablecloth restaurant, never been to a museum, never been told that they were smart, never been told that they have potential. These kids were born in poverty to drug-addicted parents, abusive single parents, and broken family homes. It’s them against the world and the odds are stacked against them. So you’ve got to let them taste it, feel it, and see it, so when they go back to that environment that little voice talks to them and says, “You know what, there really is an ocean, there really is a New York, there really are opportunities.”

Naomi Dillon|February 24th, 2012|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2012, NSBA Publications, Nutrition, Student Engagement, Urban Schools, Wellness|Tags: , |

NSBA remembers leading school health advocate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is mourning the passing of Brenda Z. Greene, a leading national expert who oversaw NSBA’s school heath policies and programs for almost a quarter century until her retirement last summer.

Photo of Brenda Z. Greene

Brenda Z. Greene promoting NSBA's school health programs.

Greene, who died Friday, joined NSBA’s staff in 1983 and was named Director of School Health Programs in 1987 when the organization received its first funding award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health. She remained in the position until her retirement in July 2011.

NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said Greene “helped NSBA become the lead education organization on school health issues.” Working with grant funding from CDC and other agencies, Greene worked in partnership with state school board associations and “helped others to be pro-active within their states, communities, and local school districts.”

“Brenda was an extraordinary leader on behalf of school board members and children, and a tireless advocate for healthy students and healthy schools,” Bryant said. “Starting more than three decades ago, she raised the issues few were willing to even discuss, such as HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, and tobacco use. Her presence will be missed.”

Alexis Rice|February 5th, 2012|Categories: Wellness|Tags: , |

NSBA releases new policy guide on food allergies

Questions still abound about the tragic death of 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson, a Virginia elementary student who apparently suffered a fatal allergic reaction last week at school.

While investigators continue to piece together what happened on that fateful day, the incident highlights the importance of addressing food allergies among school-aged children, which has risen by double digits in the last decade.   

“Since children spend a considerable amount of time in school, it is inevitable that emergencies, such as allergic reactions, will occur in the school,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director. “As school boards strive to improve the academic success of students, they cannot lose sight of the health challenges some students face and the need to prevent and effectively respond to health emergencies in school.”

Toward this end, NSBA has published “Safe at School and Ready to Learn: A Comprehensive Policy Guide for Protecting Students with Life-threatening Food Allergies” to help school leaders establish policies and practices that support the safety, well-being, and academic success of students with life-threatening food allergies.  

Developed with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, in response to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act , this publication emphasizes the role of schools in protecting students with life-threatening food allergies.

The guide focuses on the need for schools to partner with families, and healthcare providers in identifying and supporting individual student needs and preparing management plans. Further, it provides recommendations on following medication protocols; establishing a coordinated system to prevent and respond to food allergy-related emergencies across the school environment; communicating with and educating parents, students, and school personnel; and monitoring and evaluating policies and practices.

The publication also includes a checklist for schools to assess the extent to which the guide’s components are included in food allergy policies and practices being developed and implemented; sample state and local education policies; as well as a glossary of commonly used terms and a list of resources related to food allergies.

To access this publication online and for further information on addressing food allergies in schools, visit NSBA’s Food Allergies & Schools webpage.

 

Naomi Dillon|January 9th, 2012|Categories: NSBA Publications, Policy Formation, School Board News, Wellness|Tags: , |

Law gives schools flexibility on location of special services, NSBA says

Federal law requires school districts to provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education, but it is up to the district to decide where that requirement can best be met, NSBA and the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) said in a brief filed for R.K. v. Board of Education of Scott County, Kentucky recently in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was initiated in 2009, when “R.K,” a student with Type I diabetes, was in kindergartener in Scott County, Ky. Initially, R.K. needed insulin injections during the school day, but later he began using an insulin pump that required accurate input of certain dietary information.

The NSBA-KSBA brief noted that the Kentucky Board of Nursing had advised schools not to delegate the responsibility for monitoring insulin pumps to other staff. With this recommendation in mind, the district told R. K.’s parents that he could attend one of two elementary with onsite nurses. However, the parents said the district had an obligation to educate R.K. at his neighborhood school, and sued.

A district court judge ruled in June that R.K. had no “absolute right” to attend his neighborhood school, and the parents appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit.

The NBSA-KSBA brief says there is a fundamental difference between an “educational placement” decision, concerning the types of services and supports offered to a student, and the “physical location” where those services are provided.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) requires that students be educated in “the least restrictive environment,” the brief says. However, in the Kentucky case, NSBA and KSBA said, “the student does not allege he has been removed from education with his non-disabled peers; his sole allegation is that he was denied assignment to his neighborhood school.”

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. said Section 504 does not require districts to educate children with disabilities in their neighborhood school.

“The court should not read into Section 504 a requirement that a school district be required to provide all disability-related services to students in their neighborhood schools,” Negrón said.

“In addition to minimizing the role of the individualized education program staffing process, such a ruling could needlessly increase costs by minimizing the flexibility of school districts in managing limited resources.”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said a decision against the school district threatens the “common practice of deploying the districts’ resources in a many that is both fiscally responsible and educationally sound.”

Lawrence Hardy|October 20th, 2011|Categories: School Law, Special Education, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Involving families in schools: addressing opportunities and challenges

It is common sense that family involvement in schools is essential to increasing student achievement.  Research also suggests it reduces risky behaviors and improves attitudes about school among students.

However, family involvement in schools doesn’t always come easy.  For one, schools and parents often have a different understanding of what that involvement should look like.  In addition, there can be cultural and language barriers and other issues such as lack of knowledge about how the school system works that make it difficult to get families involved.  So what can school board members do to seize opportunities and address challenges to involving families in schools?

A new National School Boards Association (NSBA) publication, Families as Partners: Fostering Family Engagement for Healthy and Successful Students, presents an interesting suggestion.   According to the publication, from a school district perspective, family engagement in health issues can be an excellent first step toward getting families involved in schools as they are often more willing to address health issues than potentially intimidating academic issues.  In fact, a recently published Center for Public Education (CPE) document shows a similar thread and relays that an effective means to getting families at the door can be a targeted involvement to solve a particular problem – like poor attendance or behavior.

At first it can seem overwhelming to involve families in schools as families comes with differing views and expectations regarding the school system and their children’s learning.  But the benefits outweigh the challenges and ultimately improve student achievement!  So in thinking of ways to address challenges and seize opportunities to involving families, BoardBuzz would like you to check out some important strategies outlined in the documents above:

  • Recognize that all families, regardless of income, education, or cultural background are involved in their children’s learning and want their children to do well;
  • Investigate how families want to be involved and how teachers want families to be involved;
  • Address family involvement through a coordinated school health framework, which includes a family involvement component;
  • Foster district-wide strategies including reviewing policies and procedures to effectively engage families;
  • Ask what families need to know to be involved and how well your district and schools are meeting those needs;
  • Build the capacity of your board and staff to strengthen family engagement; and
  • Continue to survey or track the effects of involvement.

To learn more about steps to take to accomplish some of those strategies, view Families as Partners.  In addition, check out NSBA’s new Family Engagement in School Health webpage to access relevant resources such as sample policies, surveys, and tools created by NSBA to help school leaders better engage families.

How is your school district addressing family involvement?  What have been some of the outcomes?  Drop us a comment!

Daniela Espinosa|October 7th, 2011|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , |

NSBA releases family engagement resource

A new document by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) School Health Programs, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to cultivate the relationship between schools and families, with an eye toward nurturing healthy students and a healthy school environment.

Families as Partners: Fostering Family Engagement for Healthy and Successful Students, provides an overview of this critical component of student and school success and offers guidance, strategies, and resources for developing and implementing effective family engagement policies and practices.

According to the document, family engagement in schools has been shown to reduce risky behaviors and improve academic achievement and attitudes about school among students.

The publication also suggests that building connections around school and children’s health issues not only serves as a less intimidating entry point for families, but can reap multiple benefits.

“Family engagement is important to a positive school climate, as well as, to the development of promising school health policies and practices that benefit all students and prepare them for a healthy and successful future,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director.

It should be noted that families come in all shapes and sizes, and the use of the word family is an all-inclusive generic term. Regardless of their makeup, according to the document, “families and school staff share the responsibility to counter unhealthy influences and help students lead healthy, productive lives.”

And coordinated school health—an eight-step model that the CDC developed— is a sensible way to address risky behaviors among students. Not surprisingly, one of the key components in the CDC coordinated school health framework is family involvement.

Families as Partners highlights a handful of well-regarded strategies to bolster family involvement, including the model developed by noted Johns Hopkins University sociology professor Joyce L. Epstein.

Among the steps a district should take is a review of their own policies on family involvement. Chances are districts can build on their existing efforts to address family engagement in health, nutrition, and safety.

In tandem with an internal review, is an external strategy to bring families into the fold, whether it’s through community meetings, surveys, standing committees, or other opportunities where two-way dialogue can occur.

Besides the Families as Partners document, more smart tips and best practices, including a fact sheet on health and learning, sample family engagement policies, and sample surveys to engage families, can be found on the new family engagement webpage on NSBA’s website.

 

 

Naomi Dillon|September 28th, 2011|Categories: Nutrition, School Climate, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , |
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