Charter school discusses food authority program, board vacancies

By Clayton Chaney, Staff Writer

The Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) Board of Directors held a regular meeting on Thursday, April 17, where the Board met with representatives from the Colorado Independent Schools Institute (CSI) to review the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two entities. Which explains CSI’s role as the school food authority.

According to the memorandum of understanding, CSI “serves as the School Food Authority (SFA), an administrative body with the legal authority to operate a non-profit food service program in schools.”

The Memorandum of Understanding explains that CSI applies to receive federal funding from the Child Nutrition Program (CNP) and administers these funds to participating schools in accordance with state and federal laws.

Eileen Augustine, School Nutrition Program Manager at CSI, led the conversation on this topic and explained that throughout this school year, CSI has not obtained the required documents in a timely manner in order to provide PPOS with its services.

“What we found with Pagosa Peak is that because of the amount of staff that changes in the kitchen, the principal has to step in and do a lot of the work for the kitchen staff,” she said. . “So, we thought it would be better for us to have the school board be part of the MOU so they read it, understand everything, and actually be the ones actually signing it instead of the principal, since the principal can’t hold themselves accountable, can We say, if there are problems with any of the agreements.”

If a school is not compliant with turning over its records, such as temperature logs and production records, CSI will withhold payment to the school until it receives the proper documentation, Augustin explained.

PPOS has contracted with CSI as its food authority since the 2020-2021 school year.

PPOS School Principal Angela Reale-Crosland acknowledged CSI’s concerns, explaining that staffing was a major issue related to why there were issues getting documents to CSI.

“We’ve had a lot of changes in the kitchen, and you know staffing is very difficult, which is the best way to say it, in this community, and I think the district would say the same thing,” she said.

She also stated that she filled and took over some kitchen staff roles.

Reali-Crossland went on to explain that PPOS cannot legally operate as its own school food authority.

PPOS Board Treasurer Pamela Meade also acknowledged there were issues getting the required paperwork from CSI in a timely manner, but emphasized that the school board is taking the matter seriously.

“I know we’ve had a lot of meetings about getting the information to you, so I definitely think the intent is there,” she said. “The intention is to always meet the deadline; We take it very seriously.

Mead also spoke about the unreliability of kitchen staff, which contributed to the problem.

Andy Denton, head of finance and operations at CSI, acknowledged the difficulties the board faces in retaining kitchen staff, saying: “We know how difficult it is. In some areas it can be more difficult than others.”

Denton also explained that the memorandum of understanding with PPOS is the standard memorandum of understanding that CSI uses with all of its schools, and that it is not specific to PPOS.

Augustin explained during the meeting that CSI does not provide meals, as this is the responsibility of the school.

According to the MOU, CSI responsibilities include: providing technical and administrative support to the Titan Point of Sale (POS) program, online training for CNP compliance, in-person or online training on the POS system prior to the start of school, and reviewing and determining the status of all meal benefit requests within 10 business days from date of receipt, conduct site reviews to ensure compliance with CNPs, and submit monthly claims for timely reimbursement (CSI will withhold 14 cents per breakfast, 22 cents per lunch, and seven cents per snack if (applied as a fee for SFA services), Maintain all contracts related to the CNPs process, prepare meal rates and shipping policies, import previous school year student cases and account balances, and collect online payments from families to distribute funds to respective schools monthly.

Also according to the MOU, the school’s responsibilities include: Designating a staff member responsible for supervising CNPs working at the school site to communicate directly with the CSI Food Authority Designating a staff member responsible for recognizing compensable meals and entering numbers into Titan POS daily Designating a staff member responsible for receiving Meal subsidy applications from families and forward to CSI, providing free meals to all students who wish to receive Healthy School Meals for All, and providing information on online meal subsidy applications for families.

The MOU also states that the school is responsible for paying the annual administrative fee to participate in the SFA. Tuition for the 2024-2025 academic year is set at $5,500.

Augustin stated that if PPOS decides to continue using CSI as a food authority, the MOU must be signed and returned to CSI by May 20.

“So, I suppose this is here…. Because you’re trying to meet the standards of the records you were looking for and you’re not getting those standards at the tempo that suits you,” said Jesse White, a PPOS board member.

White explained that he expressed some concern about the board being too involved in the day-to-day operations of the school kitchen, as the school board is supposed to be the governing board.

“What I don’t want to do is get into the situation of going searching in the kitchen every day,” he said.

However, he said the board needs to take ownership to ensure CSI gets the records in a timely manner.

“We’re looking for the board to know more about what’s going on at the school,” Augustin said. “We feel the board just needs to be able to know what’s going on…if we get to the point of having to withhold payment, we feel the board needs to know that.”

White suggested that the school do more kitchen staff performance evaluations to make sure everything is running smoothly.

PPOS Board President Lawrence Rogar raised the possibility of PPOS joining the Archuleta School District (ASD) food program, and whether that would be a viable option.

PPOS Assistant Director Emily Murphy explained that ASD Food Service Director Todd Stevens had expressed concern about adding PPOS to his food program.

“Adding PPOS would be a financial burden on the district and not a benefit to the district,” Murphy said.

She explained that PPOS has seen an increase in the number of students relying on the school’s food service now that it is free.

Council functions

At the same meeting, board member David Prebble announced that he would not renew his membership for another term after the end of his current term, which expires next May.

The board also has another open position.

Reali-Crossland explained in a later interview that the board can have up to seven members.

During the April 17 meeting, White suggested that the board consider the option of an ASD board member joining the PPOS board as a non-voting member.


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