|By Levon Kinney, Correspondent|
WILBRAHAM Year end reports on the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District's (HWRSD) food service program and the Community Education "New Beginnings" program were presented during the May 22, School Committee meeting at Memorial Elementary School.
Community Education Coordinator Ned Doyle presented a report on his program that has serviced over 2,000 students and adults in the community.
"Our program has over eight different entities including adult education with 294 students last year," Doyle explained. "The community rec. program continues to be the most popular. Our summer volleyball tournament consisted of over 1,000 players."
Superintendent Paul Gagliarducci added that the musical lessons being taught throughout the district have now been streamlined to Minnechaug High School.
"There were some issues about security and liability," Gagliarducci explained. "I worked with Ned and we came up with a plan to consolidate all the locations to the high school."
Committee Vice Chairman Peter Salerno asked Doyle if there were any things he would like to change or improve upon in the next year.
"I would like to reinvigorate the senior citizen community," Doyle replied. "When we started the program there was a large group of seniors taking computer courses and learning how to use new technology, it has leveled off for now, but I feel they are a vital group in this community."
Committee member John McCarthy asked Doyle about the finances of the program.
"Is this more of a profit center that supports itself or is it a program that is supported by the district?" McCarthy asked.
"This past year the program netted $50,000 which goes into the 'new beginnings' revolving fund," Doyle said. "It is a district fund and is used for upgrading equipment for the program."
Food service director Julie Dougal informed the committee about where the program stands currently and was prepared to answer several questions from committee members raised earlier in the year.
"A reported 61 percent of students are eating school lunch," Dougal reported.
Adding that a number of students eat off of the "a-la-carte" menu which includes bagels and sandwiches and is not counted in the percentage.
The wellness policy set in place throughout the district promotes healthy eating and good nutrition includes whole grains in its food preparation and a new 10 ounce plastic milk container for Minnechaug High School students.
"It's a larger container than the cartons of milk we currently serve," Dougal explained. "We have found it a more suitable serving size for that age and it is a better bang for your buck."
A UMASS dietetic intern worked with the food service staff and helped with nutritional analysis.
"He analyzed the serving sizes we prepared and really held the staff to it," Dougal said with a nod to several staff members including Carol Trombley, manager of the Mile Tree school food service program.
Kitchen equipment safety and sanitization are a constant concern and Dougal explained that several training programs have helped keep all staff members up to date on regulations.
Dougal then answered questions that were raised several months ago about privatization of the food service program to a contractor much like the Springfield and Amherst-Pelham school district's.
"USDA requirements say that the district must have reduced lunch programs and a back up food service program is required in case the private company backs out of the deal," Dougal said. "We can do the job just as well as any private company can."