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Board discusses celebrations of ethnicity, questions quality of cafeteria food

Directors of Intercultural Charter School were advised at their April meeting that individual financial disclosure forms must be delivered to the Louisiana Board of Ethics by May 15.

Board member Tap Bui reported on attending a luncheon at which John White, the state’s superintendent of education, discussed his newly inaugurated Louisiana Believes program. Developed as a follow-up to a batch of recently enacted school reform legislation, Louisiana Believes is a statewide outreach effort aimed at a central objective, according to the state: “to ensure that all students, at every grade level, are on track to attain a college degree or succeed in a professional career.”

Bui described it as “both aggressive and progressive.” White’s presentation focused on how to get teachers engaged, Bui said.

Board member Kathleen Carlin said the board should set goals as the year draws to a close and include them in the board‘s mission. As an example, she said she believes the school should commit to celebrating all student ethnicities and their cultural holidays. She noted that Intercultural already has celebrated the Asian lunar new year and black history month. Hispanic heritage will be celebrated in May.

Coach Reilly Williams said that Christmas and United Nations activities also have been celebrated; she affirmed that the school wants to embrace every student’s cultural heritage.

On another topic, Williams said the school needs to upgrade the cafeteria menu to improve student eating habits – something already happening at many schools. Another possibility is to create an “edible schoolyard” in which students learn about both nutrition and gardening practices. Williams criticized the school’s cafeteria manager, Aramark Food Services, contending that its fare is pre-cooked, pre-packaged, frozen and unhealthy.

She also accused Aramark of being insensitive to student cultures. For example, a lot of Catholic children don’t eat meat on Friday’s during Lent, something not reflected in Aramark’s menus, she said. The board voted to work on gardening with Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corp.

The school’s financial director, Tom Slager, reported that March was the first month since July in which the school has ended in the black, with a net of $18,824. Revenues in March came to $398,157, much of it from federal reimbursements such as Title One. Slager said the school now has a grant writer and should be “deficit-free by December of next year.”

Slager presented the 2013 preliminary budget and said next year’s net income is estimated at  $602,795.

The meeting ended at 7:40 p.m. Board members present in addition to Bui and Carlin were Cam Tam-Tranh, Ed Blouin, Vong Nguyen, Donovan Dilorenzo and F.J. Cascio.

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