Unit 5 may still pursue some parts of a proposed farm-to-school program, but a school board resolution driving the idea has stalled, officials said Tuesday.
Unit 5 leaders last week discussed a draft version of the resolution, spearheaded by new board member David Fortner. It called for the creation of a committee to explore using healthier locally produced food on school menus, developing new curriculum, and creating school gardens, among other priorities. It called for the committee to report ideas to Superintendent Mark Daniel by Feb. 1, 2018.
The resolution included some “great stuff,” but most of the school board wants Daniel and his administration—not the board itself—to drive any changes, said Board President Jim Hayek.
“There may still be a resolution that comes in the future, but it’s probably not going to be prescriptive. It probably will be more general in how we want to support farm-to-school,” he said.
Fortner, a former math and IT teacher who was elected to the board earlier this year, said he developed the resolution after doing research on what drives student interest in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, fields. He found that school gardens, for example, can introduce students to the skills that will ultimately push them toward STEM fields, he said.
Fortner said he understands why other school board members want Daniel’s staff to lead the district’s farm-to-school efforts, so that it’s not perceived as a top-down decree from the board.
“To be honest, I’m just really happening that the discussion is taking place,” said Fortner, of rural Carlock. “It’s something I’m passionate about, but it’s not the only thing I’m passionate about.”
After a lengthy discussion about the resolution at last week’s board meeting, Daniel said he saw potential in many ideas included in the resolution.
“I'm excited about this type of project and maybe how we can make it a part of our strategic plan,” he said.
Hayek said the board is cautious about any idea that could increase costs for the district or cause other impacts on teachers and staff.
“That’s why I thought it was better spearheaded by Dr. Daniel and his staff to fit it in from a priority perspective when they think we have the funding to be able to move it forward,” Hayek said.
While there are some small pockets within the district, such as individual teachers, already working on farm-to-school-type activities, Fortner has been the most vocal supporter, Hayek said.
“It’s great that a new board member comes in with some good ideas like this and pushes the boundaries of what we’re thinking,” Hayek said. “It’s nice to have those kinds of fresh thoughts and discussion."
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