Morenci school board 2012.08.15

Written by David Green.

Morenci’s board of education is reluctantly increasing student lunch prices again this year by a nickel to meet federal requirements.

A recent review by auditors recommended a 10 cent increase, but the board’s Building and Site committee went with the minimum five cent increase. Another five cent jump is likely next year, said superintendent Michael Osborne.

All schools receiving commodities through the national school lunch program are required to meet a minimum lunch price.

Board trustee Phil McCaskey asked if the district is taking a proactive approach in notifying parents of free and reduced price lunch eligibility.

Income guidelines for eligibility are probably lower than most people think, he said, and a parent can be unemployed for only a short amount of time and still qualify. Even if both parents are working in low-wage jobs, income guidelines would probably make the children eligible. Currently, about half of the district’s students receive free or reduced price lunches.

With many people there’s an issue of pride, McCaskey said, and he went through it when he was unemployed. It’s easier for students with the current lunch payment process, he said, because other students can’t tell who is getting the discounted meals.

Teacher Melissa Elliott said she wasn’t aware of all the details. If teachers learned more about the program, they could mention it to parents during the October parent-teacher conferences.

Board president Scott Merillat said he’s heard complaints from middle school students that there isn’t enough food when it’s their turn to eat. Teacher Sally Kruger added that it’s the fifth and sixth grade students who are the last ones through the serving line.

It’s not a case of being completely out of food, said assistant principal Phil Stark, but the main item of the day sometimes runs short before everyone is served.

Osborne said he would talk to the food service staff about the quantity of food available.

RADIOS—Like law enforcement agencies across the country, schools that use radio communication are also facing the need to replace old equipment with new radios. The existing radios will no longer function at the end of the year due to a Federal Communications Commission mandate known as “narrowbanding.”

Replacing the radios used on Morenci school buses is expected to cost at least $10,000.

Radios are used frequently, said district finance director Erica Metcalf, when drivers are keeping track of “latchkey” students, when students get picked up by a relative and aren’t on the bus, when students have drop-off schedules that vary through the week. It’s not as simple as it was when board members were riding the bus, she said.

Due to the cost, McCaskey said, he would like to find out more about how often they’re used and if any alternatives exist.

Cellular phone reception is very spotty, Metcalf said, and three different carriers might be needed for one bus route. It’s illegal for bus drivers to use a cell phone while they’re driving, Merillat added.

“We need to provide a way for drivers to communicate with the school,” he said.

PARKING LOT—Several holes in the high school parking lot were patched, which should last over the winter, and any additional holes will be filled with cold patch. The overall condition of the lot is not bad, Merillat said, but a repaving project would have to wait until a school bond was passed by voters.

Metcalf told the board that members need to continue thinking about a bond proposal to cover the school’s physical needs. She’s spoken with some staff members to collect information on work that needs to be done and purchases that need to be made.

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    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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