By Christopher Gordon
Because of the concern over obesity in the district, the Springville-Griffith School Board is looking at possible changes to its wellness policy, which may lead to the removal of unhealthy foods for celebrations such as birthdays.
“I have concerns about the obesity rates,” said Board Member Michael Connors – who is also a member of the district’s policy committee.
He said one of his concerns is the amount of snacks, such as cupcakes and cookies, that children consume throughout the year as students celebrate birthdays.
“We are a globally obese society,” Connors said.
Superintendent Kimberly Moritz said the board has a number of options with this issue, one being it could maintain the current wellness policy as worded. Or it could return the policy back to the committee to discuss possible proposed changes to it.
“It will come down to the opinion of the board,” Moritz said.
“Obesity comes in nowhere in the policy,” School Board President Allison Duwe said.
According to Duwe, when she joined the board, the district had the second highest obesity rate in Erie County, so she is in favor of taking a look at the policy and exploring various options.
Duwe noted that she is also concerned about creating rules that could come across as extreme.
She said she is frustrated over some of the wording in the policy because while some of the policy includes not allowing some homemade products in classes where there are allergies, that the rules do not totally prohibit unhealthy snacks to be brought into classrooms.
“My frustration is out of concern of commercially-labeled processed foods,” Duwe said.
Board member Tyler Sullivan questioned what this policy has to do with education.
“Food is an important part of a child’s day,” he said.
According to Sullivan, part of the issue he sees is that in some cases, there is value to having food in the classroom.
He pointed to annual Thanksgiving celebrations in which the children bring in food to go with a meal, including making homemade stuffing and other items.
At the same time, he also sees where some children who may not be able to enjoy having items at home, such as cupcakes or cookies for their birthday, could be hurt if the district updated its policy to eliminate allowing those items in the classroom.
Moritz said she would like to see the district take a look at the policy because she said each school is different when it comes to what they allow.
One of the ideas that was tossed around was instead of children bringing food in to celebrate birthdays, perhaps they could bring something like pencils or coloring books.
Duwe said her one objection with that idea is that she purchased several pencils before the start of the school year and that she does not want to see her kids bring home more pencils.
School Board Vice President Jennifer Sullivan said parents sending items in for school is “part of the culture,” and that has become second nature to do so for birthdays.
Connors said taking a look at the policy would not necessarily give hard and fast rules, but would give guidelines.
He also suggested that another idea the district could look at is instead of a child bringing in a snack, the teacher could allow the child to decide on an activity for that day.
Student representative Isobel Hooker said at the high school, food Friday is celebrated once a month in a few of her classrooms. She said the type of food items that are common include snack foods like cookies and donuts.
She told the board that she would not be upset to see the board change its policy, as she does not believe that type of food belongs in classrooms.
The board is sending the policy back to the committee to discuss it at a future meeting.
The Board broke into executive session to appoint an interim board member to fill the seat that was vacated by Garret English in the fall.
“The SGI Board is thankful to all who expressed an interest in our open Board seat,” said Board President Allison Duwe. “We are pleased to announce that we unanimously appointed Tammy Sherwood to fill the vacancy. She will be sworn in as a Board member at our Jan. 9 meeting and she will serve until May. Ms. Sherwood served as a community representative on the SGI facilities committee and has been present at almost all of our meetings over the last two years. The Board felt Tammy would be well suited to step in and support the work of the Board over the next five months.”
Sherwood Appointed to Fill Board Seat
Tammy Sherwood grew up in East Otto and graduated from Perry High School in 1985. She has lived in Springville since 1994 and participated in the SGI District Facilities Review Committee with her husband, Blair Mongerson. She is a writer, editor, and interviewer. As T. L. Sherwood, her writing has garnered nominations for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and a Pushcart. She’s the 2015 winner of the Gover Prize, awarded for flash fiction. Tammy is also a member of the Hamburg Writers’ Group and a volunteer at the West Falls-Colden Community Library.