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Slater superintendent proposes 'Saturday School' to address attendance problems

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

At the school board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 21, Slater Superintendent of Schools John McEachern introduced the possibility of "Saturday School," to help students whose repeated, unexcused absences are putting their education at risk.

McEachern said a Saturday program has been successfully implemented elsewhere and that it often serves as a deterrent to absences.

"Our attendance has never been the best," he said, "but our goal is 95 percent."

There are some exceptions to the law, but attendance is generally required for every Missouri child between the ages of 7 and 16, and the burden of compliance is squarely on the shoulders of parents and/or guardians. Enforcement is the job of the school board.

McEachern said he will meet with Slater Mayor Stephen Allegri and Assistant City Administrator Gene Griffith on Thursday, Oct. 23, to discuss the possibility of a city truancy ordinance.

McEachern said Wednesday, Oct. 22, that he doesn't think there is an existing truancy ordinance in Slater, but believes that improving school attendance would help the entire community.

In other business, the board approved the annual "Red Ribbon" anti-drug program to be implemented during the week of Oct. 27. The week kicks off with an all-school assembly at 8:15 Monday morning, Oct. 27, and includes contests and activities throughout the week.

The board also briefly discussed the possibility of installing a track around the existing football field. A matching grant of $75,000 is available, but adding the track would require moving the football and softball fields. McEachern said the project would "take some doing," but didn't rule it out. Additional discussion with the city will be required.

Board Member Jodi Fuemmeler raised a question about the school lunch program. Slater's current policy regarding payment of lunch fees is to serve the minimum state requirement lunch (peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a glass of milk) to students whose parents or guardians have not paid their accounts.

Fuemmeler said she is concerned about teasing from other students, particularly in the lower grades. McEachern said upcoming parent-teacher conferences are a good time to address the issue with parents, adding that while he understood the concern, "We must be good stewards of the school's money." McEachern also said that the number of delinquent accounts has dropped considerably since implementation of the policy last year, and said parents who have difficulty paying their accounts should make their problems known to the superintendent's office.

On the Net:

Missouri law regarding compulsory attendance:


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I am the parent of a 18 year old, and got a threatening letter from the Principal and the Superintendent stating if we did not pay $12.30 for our son's class and lunch fines, that my son would serve detention. If that did not work, than the school is a safe keeper of tax payer money. Too me, that is no way a school should react to $12.30. They also gave me a time line to pay by. My wife tried to explain to the school that we were not paying for my son's meals, because he moved out on his own and he was responsable as long as he lived on his own. I think the school district over stepped bounds. Two days after my son moved back into our home, we recieved another letter from the school. My son was absent some while out of our home. The school wrote some on the Missouri Statutes, JEA, educational neglect to get us to get my son back in school. This might be a federal crime that the Principal done. See under Title 18, USC, 242 of the United States of America Penal code- It states no local, state, or federal government agency shall willfully deprive or conspire to deprive any person of a right protected by the Constitution or US law. So I sent the letter to the US Department of Justice and told them about Color of law and how the school district was treating my family. It is a crime to the FBI and punishable up to 1 year in prison. See we do not force our son to do anything, because he is 18 years old and an adult. But the school thinks it can force me and my wife, to take action against my son. That is not right. The Principle knew the Missouri laws so well, that he forgot that I was more cleaver. That I would look up information on Missouri Statutes and JEA, that I would look up the educational neglect( Class C Misdemeanor). This story indicates that the school knew full well that children in compulsory age are 7 to 16.. So why did he send a letter to a 18 year old students address and threaten parents? Not knowing the law is no excuse in the eyes of justice. This type of behavior should not be tolerated by any school district. Mr McEachern pointed out my son infront of the entire school when giving a speech on how he planned to charge the parents for children being absent. That is not right. One, it avoids the privacy act, by him saying, I am talking about you..

-- Posted by Charlesc on Fri, Dec 5, 2008, at 10:02 PM

Slater is not the only school that does this.There are schools in K.C. does it two. As for allergies the head cook is notified just as soon as doctor lets the school knows.

-- Posted by old cook on Tue, Nov 4, 2008, at 9:06 AM

Maybe they should offer PB&J to every student. The students who have lunch bills that are kept current could have the option of either a PB&J or a hot lunch. The students who have overdue lunch bills would get PB&J, instead of having the option of a hot lunch. This would eliminate singling out the students whose parents have not taken care of their bill, and give those students who would rather have PB&J anyway, the option.

-- Posted by Oldblackcat on Sun, Nov 2, 2008, at 8:57 PM

How sad that no one seems to understand that Mr. McEachern is just doing what others schools do. Maybe instead of trying to tear him down ever chacne you get you should stop and think about one thing.

Some children in public schools have severe allergies to nuts, and therfore cannot sit near peopple who are eating peanut butter. AT ALL. Maybe??? Someone thought of that??? Maybe they were trying to make sure noone had an allergic reaction?? I don't know this to be fact, just a thought.

It seems to me that things have been going pretty well in Slater with new blood, give the man a chance!

-- Posted by let's see on Thu, Oct 30, 2008, at 5:17 PM

Mom, I missed your point because you have about 3 wrapped in one. I don't think many people agree with making the kids sit at a particular table. That's a given. Your other points, if you read your posts, are that these kids should also be given fruits & vegetables with their P,B,&J (which kids that bring their own lunches don't even have), they should be given hot lunches because most lunches will be thrown away at the end of the day (that's why they take a lunch count each day- so they're not throwing a bunch of food away), and that the superintendent should eat P,B,&J with the kids to see how he likes it (even though he has nothing to do with people not paying again and again). Those are the points we don't agree on.

I mentioned previously that oversights happen, but the old cook confirms that these aren't oversights. It happens to the same kids day after day. STOP CHARGING IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE MONEY! We are teaching these kids at a young age to stay dependant on the system. "Someone will take care of you!" You say who cares about a few extra bucks and as the old cook points out, this is $20-$40 each kid- not a couple of extra bucks. 5 kids equals at least $100 that could be spent elsewhere. I'm sure you'll argue that point and say that everyone against giving the kids an above adequate lunch has no heart. We all have our own opinions.

-- Posted by er on Mon, Oct 27, 2008, at 10:08 AM

You all don't understand this is not charges for just lunch this is mostly charges for extra food the parents don't pay for. Some of these bills are over $20.00 to $40.00 a month. What is the school going to do? This is all the parents fault not Mr. McEachern's. I didn't like giving the kids P.B. & J. at first but if you thank about it, there is nothing else to do. The school sends letters home but the parents think it is up someone else to take care of there kids while they spend there money on cigarettes, drug and alcohol or to just "keep up with the Jones's". It is time for these parents to take responsibility. Don't blame Mr. McEachern, he has all the kids to look after and I would like to say he is doing a good job.

-- Posted by old cook on Sat, Oct 25, 2008, at 2:36 PM

OK er!

I am not saying that the only reason Slater was unique was because it pays for everyones lunches, you missed the point! Should I be surprised? I do not feel that kids should be singled out. There are better ways to handle these situation. I personally know that if I were a parent of one of these children I would not stand for this. One more thing to you ER, I have never complained about paying for anything, but I do complain when I think children are being singled out for something they cannot control.

-- Posted by MOM#22 on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 11:56 PM

jl32320, very well said. Slater should not be 'unique' because they pay for everyone's lunches mom#22. It's a priviledge to live in Slater because everyone knows one another and are willing to work with just about anybody if you're honest with them. That's what makes Slater schools unique. The same people that complain because not everyone has a hot lunch are normally the same ones complaining because they have activity fees or higher taxes. Pick your poison. Would you rather pay for your own child's education expenses or everyone else's hot lunch? If you're intentionally sending your child to school with no lunch or way to pay for a lunch, there's issues that go deeper than a superintendent asking for parents to pay their lunch bills. They're usually not afraid to ask for handouts from anyone else, why would a school be different?

-- Posted by er on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 3:59 PM

It's not Mr. McEachern's responsibility to raise our children, plain and simple. It is, however, his responsibility to make sure our school has the proper funding and that we are reaching excellence in learning. I know people won't be happy either way. First people started commenting, saying the children are mocked and ridiculed for eating the "special" lunch. So now it's been commented they have children sit at a table together and that's wrong. I'm not saying that it's okay for children to be made fun of at all. I would never want that for a child, but I'm sure if a parent is going through a hard time Mr. McEachern would work with them. My child forgets to tell me all the time he is out of lunch money. Children should not be punished for their parent's mistakes, but should the citizens have to pay.

If we allow all of the children to have a free for all and eat without cost say goodbye to all of our extracurricular activities, art, and music. Say hello to higher taxes for the city of Slater. Oh and you can definitely say goodbye to that awesome track field. If this is the worst thing we can complain about, we are a VERY lucky school.

-- Posted by jl32320 on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 3:11 PM

I wanted to add to my comment earlier. I always thought of Slater schools as unique and not following what every other school does. That is what makes a small town so special, people stick together. I guess things have changed due to a new supernatant, how sad. I am socked that these kids sit at their own table. What is this segregation against innocent children, that aren't old enough to work in some cases, and have to rely on their parents. That makes me sick. You should be ashamed of enforcing this MR. Eachern. Stand up for these kids, who cares if it cost a few extra bucks, isn't their future worth it. Let these kids remember their young lives with kindness and care, not being humiliated by an authority figure.

-- Posted by MOM#22 on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 2:18 PM

er-I want to make it clear, I DID pay my childs lunch. He asks to stay up until midnight and I don't let him. Just because a child asks for something, doesn't mean they should get it. I didn't take offence. I realize you were trying to get your point across. I think the school's doing a good job, they just seem to be under a constant microscope.

-- Posted by jl32320 on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 1:28 PM

I think that as with all things there is a middle ground here. People in education sometimes forget that there is life outside the bubble; likewise I feel that those outside the schools forget to take note of what happens in the bubble. Rather than once again putting Slater and all it's faults and flaws on these posts so that Marshall can continue to feel superior to us, lets try to solve these problems quietly and through the proper channels. Children are not responsible for their parents problems-that's the end of it. There is no where else for that vein of discussion to go. The school does need to attempt to break even on its lunch program. If people are willing to donate money to a food pantry surely until the powers that be figure this out, we as a community can help by buying a few hot lunches for these children, who again I remind you all, are not responsible for their parents poor choices. I myself have already paid for quite a few lunches and it made me feel great to help a child. As for reporting to DFS, I imagine that a little detective work and you would find that these families already have a case worker. Really Slater, lets work together to solve these problems-Most of you that posted and live in Slater chose to live there, I know I did, so lets take care of this community that we know and love.

-- Posted by hownow on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 1:27 PM

I agree with the comments regarding the children who are eating PB & J, while their parents sit in thier house, probably w/no heat, smoking cigarettes (or drug of choice), while probably consuming alcohol. I have a right to say it, I've been in this town over 35 years and have seen exactly that for as long as I can remember. I have children in this school, and at times they fail to tell me they are out of lunch money...at least they are fed those days, and obviously it isn't too embarrassing or they would remember to tell me when they owe. I don't blame Mr. McEarchern for the decisions, I am not a fan of his, however, I have seen positive changes, so he is doing something right.

No, the child should not be seperated from their classmates and have to sit at a different table. That is degrading. I do think that if the parents are having financial difficulties (and, who isn't) they should call and schedule a time to talk to Mr. M, and discuss options. I am sure there is a bit of leeway somewhere.

As for the track, yes...the kids need it. It was embarrassing as a track participant traveling to different schools to the meets - and not being able to house one at our own school. Of course, that has been years, so who knows if the feelings are the same now.

Our coaches (Well, most of them) work hard, and put in alot of their own time with these kids, it would be very rewarding.

-- Posted by concrnedctzn on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 11:29 AM

I am a Slater graduate and I am very disappointed in the fact that children are being singled out when they have unpaid lunch bills. What is the world coming to? I understand wanting to save money but we are talking about hot food that probably gets thrown away at the end of the lunch hours. Also what else is served with these peanut butter sandwiches, only milk? What about a fruit or vegetable? Children have enough to deal with, now they are being singled out for something they cannot control. I disagree with this being a positive change. I have a great idea, how about everyday you Mr. McEachern eat a peanut butter sandwich with the kids.

-- Posted by MOM#22 on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 11:25 AM

Working mom, you're right. I could not tell the child. However, I have family in Slater and know how it works. It's so small that everyone knows everyone's business. There are literally no exceptions. You know who isn't paying their bills, who's doing drugs, who's at the bar, who's fighting who, etc. Tell their parents, not the child. Some people mentioned that all kids know if someone didn't pay because they all sit at the same table. You see that parent at the liquor store buying booze or buying cigarettes- remind them that your kid noticed their kid sitting at a table with kids who can't afford to pay their bills. We keep aiding the parent(s) and allowing this to happen. "We know this person won't take care of their child, so the school will". It's time to stand up to the parent and tell them to take care of their own children. If they're not doing this, call DFS. Why is it OK to let some parents off easy when others break their backs everyday at work so they can provide the bare essentials? Put the pressure on the parents and let them know this is not tolerated in the community. Like I said, everyone in Slater wants to gossip about what's going on but no one wants to stand up and stop it.

-- Posted by er on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 10:42 AM

Schools are not there to take on all aspects of raising a child. I do agree with you there. But some of the burden does fall on the schools even if we don't want it to. If we could pick who were responsible enought to raise a child then there would be a lot less problem-- but the fact is there are children who are being raised by those who do put their priorities in the wrong order. The one who SUFFERS is the child-- the child had no wrong doing-- it is the parents-- remember we are talking about a CHILD-- who along with academics also learns from school life lessons-- and if we degrade a child or put him in the position to be degraded when it could have been prevented we are adding to the problems that this child is obviously facing at home--could you be the one to tell this child that he has to do withoutand make him face the taunts he may receive-- I sure could not.

-- Posted by workingmom on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 10:14 AM

...one last thing. tj0630, do you honestly think the superintendent, school board members, and teacher's children have school bills that go unpaid? I could see an 'oversight' but those people normally realize the importance of paying people in a timely manner to avoid interruption of a service. Especially in their own district. This is why we trust them to be the superintendent, school board members, and teachers for our children.

jl32320- I wasn't trying to pick on you, just wanted to clarify that you did pay after all. I agree with everything you said.

-- Posted by er on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 10:06 AM

jl32320- Hopefully you didn't listen to your child and you paid the bill. If you didn't pay so your child could have peanut butter and jelly on the school's dime, when you could have bought your own, that's taking more from the school that's not needed and you're adding to the problem. The school isn't there to take care of your child's personal needs (i.e; clothes, food, healthcare, etc.). A school is to provide education for your children. I wonder how many parents who cannot pay their children's school bills bought a pack of cigarettes this week. Or better yet, a carton of cigarettes while their child sits at the 'peanut butter and jelly table'. I would hope most families eat dinner at night. What's wrong with packing leftovers from dinner if money is that tight? Tuna and rice cost less than cigarettes! Parents need to stop relying on schools for everything and fulfill their responsibilities as care givers.

-- Posted by er on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 9:51 AM

From what I understand the kids that are given peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are not at the same table as the kids that are given the regular trays of food. I understand that these kids have to sit at a table with other kids eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. How degrading is that when not only do they not get the same food as the other kids but they also don't get to sit with their classmates for lunch. I also want to know if this rule goes for all kids or if the kids of the superintendent, school board members and teachers are given special treatment if their bills happen to be unpaid. I don't think it does.

-- Posted by tj0630 on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 7:38 AM

In my opinion Mr. McEachern is doing a good job with the schools. I don't think it's that he "doesn't care about the children" but he can't justify buying every students lunch. I went to elementary school and part of middle school in the city. I know when I was going there they had the exact same policy. If you don't have lunch money then you had to eat peanut butter and jelly spread on a hamburger bun and you were given a carton of milk. You weren't allowed to charge a penny! Moreover, if you were on reduced lunch you were given a special bright yellow card. When you pulled that card out of your pocket to pay for lunch EVERYONE knew you were on reduced lunch. That's not the case in Slater. At least the children on reduced lunches don't have special cards that have to be used, and like CharChar said "peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are what kids who bring their own lunch usually bring anyways". My son actually asked me NOT to pay his charge so he could eat the peanut butter and jelly. :) I'm not justifying children being ridiculed and mocked if they have to eat the substitute lunch, but at least they are receiving something. I think we've all be through rough times, and if you go and talk to the school I would hope they could help you out.

As far as the track is concerned, it would an excellent idea. The track team works SO hard, they deserve to have something like that provided to them. I understand it would very expensive, but it could be a cost that's justified. Maybe then, we could host track meets? That would be great for the kids!

-- Posted by jl32320 on Thu, Oct 23, 2008, at 12:58 PM

A track would be nice for slater, after what that track program has done in the past 5 years, that would be a great gift to the coaches.

-- Posted by JohnJoe on Thu, Oct 23, 2008, at 12:23 PM

I don't feel that feeding a child a warm lunch is blowing money, I don't think that making a child face ridicule from others that could be prevented is blowing money. I am sure there have been some positive changes instituted by McEachern but I do disagree with this one - very strongly-- this is NOT blowing money-- but ultimately a tool conducive to the child's ability to concentrate on his schoolwork versus concentrating on how his lunch will go.

-- Posted by workingmom on Wed, Oct 22, 2008, at 3:03 PM

I understand where your coming from workingmom but Mr. McEachern is right that they must be "good stewards with the schools money" He's trying to do what's best for the school. I have already seen major improvements in that school district and im a previous graduate. That child is getting fed! peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches are what kids who bring their own lunch usaully bring anyways. Now that the slater school district is starting to use their money wisely your trying to say they should start blowing it again?? i don't think so. John McEachern has made positive changes to that school district, and i'm sure he will continue doing so.

-- Posted by charchar on Wed, Oct 22, 2008, at 1:53 PM

McEachern's statement "we must be good stewards of the school's money" concerning the lunches bothers me immensely. Being a good steward of the schools money means making school a safe haven, and a place that children can get something to eat without ridicule-- school may be their only hot meal of the day. Some parents have applied for free or reduced lunches and do not qualify, because those standards do not rise as fast as inflation-- many parents are struggling to keep the lights on and gas in the car to continue to work-- so I wonder if a Slater parent made it known that they are having trouble with paying their account-and they do not qualify for conventional help-- what would be done-- would the children continue to be served just the basic minimum---the ULITMATE concern should be the well being of the child here-- that is how the money of the district would be best put to use. Where is your heart-- can you imagine a child who's parents couldn't afford to pay their account and couldn't afford to buy the food to pack a lunch because the car blew up and the money had to go to transportation-- walking to the lunch counter, tummy tied in knots due to embarrassement, head held down hoping no one would say anything to him or notice he has to get peanut butter and jelly, and going to sit at a table where all the other kids are enjoying a warm filling meal---I would rather the schools money be spent on filling this child's tummy with good warm food than buying anything else-- it's not his fault his parents did not/could not pay---Is your heart so cold my Mr. Mcearchern as to not feel sympathy for this child-- how is that being a good steward of the school's money

-- Posted by workingmom on Wed, Oct 22, 2008, at 1:37 PM

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