As is typical of the City School District of New Rochelle, they have parents at Trinity running around in circles. In this post we reveal evidence of the use of delaying tactics in order to not address an issue. In “Parents Mobilizing to Address 15 Minute Lunch” posted on this blog on Friday October 3, 2008, we reported on efforts by parents drafting a letter requesting a time extension of the 4th and 5th grade lunch at Trinity Elementary School. Currently, 4th and 5th graders at Trinity only have 15 minutes to eat. This includes standing in line to purchase the lunch. In an extraordinary effort by a group of parents, a letter was drafted and 129 signatures were gathered. This effort is extremely significant due to the fact that each signature represents a family and not an individual. Furthermore, the number approximates 15% of the total families at Trinity Elementary School. It is important to note that this effort evolved as a direct result of information obtained from this blog.
We have some important updates for our readers. First, an e-mail we received from a Parent Leader explaining the process of the effort:
I have been diligently working on getting the 15 minute lunch period at Trinity Elementary extended by at least 5 minutes for this year and in the future.
My son kept telling my husband and I that he did not have enough time to eat his lunch. We didn’t believe him until we found out that 4th and 5th graders only get 15 minutes to purchase and eat their lunch at Trinity Elementary. We confirmed this fact with the administration of the school. I also called city hall to ask the school district’s Health and Wellness Chairman, Dr. Weiss-Harrison, for assistance. Both Principal McMahon and Dr. Weiss-Harrison said that it was not enough for me to complain and that I would have to gather more parents that agreed with me. That is when I decided to start a petition.
They are the only children in the entire District who only have 15 minutes to eat their lunch.
When I walked my son to school, I carried a clipboard and asked people to sign the petition. I also called some moms that I knew personally and met up with them over the weekends to sign. One evening I collected signatures when I picked up my son at the afterschool program. Three other moms also collected signatures. Generally, everyone I asked willingly signed. Most did not know that the children only had 15 minutes for lunch. I also told people that the school had two “overflow” tables, whereby if students were not done with their lunch, they could carry it over to these tables to finish. Of all the people I asked, only one man said that 15 minutes was enough for lunch. When I approached the parents and their children were with them, the parent typically asked the child if he or she had enough time to eat. Generally, they said no.
The principal addressed the topic at a PTA meeting on October 6th. He said that he felt that 15 minutes was enough for lunch and that the overflow tables were working.
I collected 129 signatures and sent the attached letter to Dr. Weiss-Harrison of the New Rochelle School District on October 24th. (In the attachment I covered up people’s signatures to preserve their privacy.) I also sent her this study: http://www.nfsmi.org/documentLibraryFiles/PDF/20080221023914.pdf I received a reply letter on November 8th. Her letter is attached. Dr. Weiss-Harrison thinks that 15 minutes is adequate, but is willing to work on it for next year.
What do you all think? I still think that 15 minutes is inadequate and that the children need at least 20 minutes: to eat their lunch for proper nutrition to perform well in school; learn proper eating habits; and practice appropriate social behavior.
I sent her a follow up letter back today, which I will share in a few days, after she receives it. Feel free to forward this email, especially to those that signed the petition.
Second, we would like to show you the letter. Only one parent who was approached believed 15 minutes was enough. A few parents declined to sign due to the fact that they work for the district and feared retaliation. As it often happens, individuals who work for the district and step forward on something like this, are systemically “punished.” The punishment may come in the form of reassignment, poor evaluation, discontinuation of contract, and general treatment as a pariah within a hostile work environment:
Below is the response the parent leader received from Dr. Weiss, Medical Director for the City School District of New Rochelle. Must we conclude that Dr. Weiss knows more than we do about what is minimally appropriate for our children?
Once again, children and their families in the South End of New Rochelle get shortchanged. What is so difficult about giving every child in the district the same amount of time to eat their lunch? How does this translate to equity? Unfortunately, equity is just a mirage in New Rochelle. We will keep you posted on any further development.