Leonia School Board Addresses Food Insecurity and Financial Stability

At a recent Leonia School Board meeting, members and student representatives tackled the issue of food insecurity among students, along with discussing the district’s financial stability and various ongoing projects. The most notable discussion centered around a student-led initiative proposing free meals for all students to combat food insecurity, drawing on strategies from other states and focusing on potential funding avenues.

The meeting commenced with a presentation by the Humanities 2 class on the topic of food insecurity, introducing a proposal that aimed at providing free meals to all students within New Jersey. The students, drawing inspiration from successful programs in California, Colorado, and Massachusetts, aimed to illustrate the significant impact that hunger can have on a student’s ability to perform academically. They highlighted the lack of specific data for Leonia and Edgewater, instead utilizing nationwide statistics to support their resolution. The board acknowledged the presentation with a proclamation honoring Mr. Eric Guik for his 20 years of service and impact as an educator.

The students’ presentation delved into potential funding sources for the initiative, including contributions from local businesses, foundations, and collaborations with food banks. They were questioned about the feasibility of their proposal, particularly regarding funding, which led them to suggest seeking support from local supermarkets and food banks, as well as considering modifications to tax structures. The cost of implementing a free lunch program was estimated at $500,000 per school year for the district. The board members engaged in a constructive dialogue with the students, exploring the feasibility and practical aspects of the resolution, and expressed their support for the initiative. They suggested investigating other districts with similar programs and commended the students for their thorough presentation.

An unmodified opinion was provided on the district’s financial statements and compliance with state grant requirements by the auditor. The district’s surplus and unassigned fund balance were also discussed, with a particular mention of an insurance recovery expenditure for Hurricane Ida damages at the high school.

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In the realm of administrative updates, the board discussed the transition to BoardDocs, a platform designed to streamline meetings and documentation online. The superintendent provided updates on various school events, such as the staff development day and a humanities presentation at the high school. Additionally, the superintendent participated in a Ramadan observation event at the senior center and highlighted the upcoming spring sports events. The board also noted the senior class’s efforts to fundraise through a card party and new apparel design.

The meeting progressed with discussions on ongoing projects such as the submission of documents for approval to the Department of Education, mitigation efforts at LHS and LMS, and the redesign of the media center at LHS. The status of seven EV buses was mentioned, pending final paperwork for a grant agreement revision. Furthermore, the board was in the process of seeking proposals for the District Food Service Company. Committee reports touched on planning the CSA evaluation, professional development, potential changes to the high school schedule, and reviewing policies for any necessary updates.

During the public comment period, a community member raised concerns about the funding for the food proposal and emphasized the need for proper water treatment within school facilities. Following this, the board moved into a closed session and later approved personnel items. The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 pm after a vote on consent agenda items and administrative reports on district business.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Superintendent:
Brian P. Gatens
School Board Officials:
Khalli Harris, Hana Choi, Emilia Morello

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