Gateway Ethics Committee aims to help needy students
Families that are struggling financially this winter could receive a little help from a program spearheaded by the Gateway Ethics Committee, though it isn't clear yet from where the money will come.
An email last month sent by Gateway Superintendent Nina Zetty — who also is a member of the ethics committee — explained to all district employees that if they wanted to donate $1.50 from each of their paychecks from January through June, donations could cover the cost of reduced-price breakfasts and lunches throughout the district for the remainder of the school year.
“The goal is to collect enough money to be able to say to our families, ‘Do not worry about the reduced cost of breakfast or lunch; spend that money on other necessities,' ” Zetty explained at a Dec. 2 school board meeting. “It's not a requirement; it's just a request to all employees.”
Nearly 600 people receive paychecks from the Gateway School District, according to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit website.
As of Monday, only eight employees volunteered.
Teachers viewed the program as unnecessary because they already help students on a case-by-case basis, for example, buying students lunch one day or buying them a winter coat if they need it, Gateway Education Association President Mike Krestar said this week. In fact, the email from Zetty was received just before Thanksgiving, as a group of teachers were cooking and delivering Turkeys to families throughout the district, he said.
“I think the teachers in the district go above and beyond,” he said. “It's not that we're uncaring. I don't think (Zetty) realized the things that we've been doing.”
Gateway school director Jan Rawson said the email from Zetty was inappropriate because of ongoing teacher-contract negotiations in which district officials are seeking concessions from employees. The previous contract expired Aug. 25.
“We're trying to save money for the school district, but then she's asking them to contribute more money,” Rawson said Monday. “Taking from one hand and asking them to give with the other.”
Zetty said the donations wouldn't go to the district but would go directly to needy local families.
“I didn't ask (employees) to give a donation,” she said. “I just said, ‘Here's another way to help our kiddos.' Given the climate of the times, my request was taken in the wrong vain.”
Officials estimate it would cost $87 per week to subsidize reduced-price meals for the remainder of the school year. Donations received so far would cover $12 per week. Of the 3,503 Gateway students, 254 are enrolled in the reduced-price lunch program. The program costs 30 cents a day for breakfast and 40 cents a day for lunch.
Food-service director Martin Lorenzo said he was in favor of the program.
“It helps bridge the gap for households who qualified for reduced meals but still have problems,” Lorenzo said.
A similar program is offered each year at Franklin Regional School District, which typically raises between $10,000 and $12,000 annually to subsidize student meals.
Among the biggest supporters of the Fund-A-Meal program is the Franklin Regional teachers union. It also has some participants from the community.
Zetty's idea to seek help from employees was of good intent, said Rabbi Barbara Symons of Temple David in Monroeville, a member of the Gateway Ethics Committee.
That said, the discussion at the most recent Ethics Committee meeting — which includes school, municipal and religious leaders — swayed toward the community outside of the school district playing a larger role in fully subsidizing the reduced-price lunches via donations at local houses of worship, Symons said.
“I think the goal is laudable,” she said. “If Interfaith (Ministerium) can help with that goal, we will.”
Zetty said officials are considering “sharing tables” and “backpack programs” in schools. A sharing table would allow some students to leave food items and other students to trade for an item or take an item if they're in need. The backpack program would call on local sponsors to provide free backpacks stocked with food for the weekend.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.