ASHLAND - Ashland City Schools will accept a donation from No Child Goes Hungry and work with the charitable fund's leader to establish a long-term solution for student lunch debt, district board of education president James Wolfe announced at a board meeting Monday.
The announcement came after Ashland mother Nichole Aber raised more than $5,000 to wipe out lunch debt districtwide. The original story about No Child Goes Hungry was published on Ashland Source Jan. 23.
Supported by a crowd of other parents in the audience, Aber addressed the board of education Monday. She shared the story of how her son's school lunch was taken from him and thrown away because he had exceeded the school's charge limit.
Per the district's policy, students who exceed the charge limit are given an alternate lunch rather than a hot lunch.
"I don't like the idea of singling children out and providing alternate meals, let a alone wasting the food as well, but I do understand there is the issue of lunch debt that needs address," Aber said. "That's where we came up with idea to create a charity that raises money that we can donate to the schools."
Aber said she understands the one-time donation will not resolve the lunch debt issue long-term, so she and her husband, Shawn, are meeting with superintendent Doug Marrah and business manager Robert Knabe Thursday to discuss the creation of an endowed fund to help cover future lunch debt.
"We're excited to work with the schools to help in any way that we can," Aber said. "These are our kids, our schools, and this is our community. We want to help take care of everyone."
Wolfe praised Aber for her desire to help and for her fundraising efforts.
"I think it's in a mother's nature to see that you don't want this to happen to any other kid. I think that's a blessing and I praise God for you," Wolfe said. "I think you're going to make a big difference, and without you coming forward I don't think this problem would have ever been corrected."
As a former principal at Ashland Middle School, board member Mike Heimann thanked Aber for her work.
"I can't commend you enough for the undertaking you've done. I think that's outstanding as a short-term solution," Heimann said. "I agree with the meeting coming up in the future, that hopefully we can address this as a long-term issue without making the issue larger."
Wolfe said as a parent, he is not pleased with how the lunch policy has been enforced and would like to see a better way going forward.
In the short-term, Wolfe said, the district will accept all or part of the charity's donations. The money will be divided between each school building's principal's fund, and principals will be directed to clear the existing debt in their students' lunch accounts.
Long term, the district plans to work with Aber to establish an endowed fund through Ashland City Schools Foundation, which is managed by Ashland County Community Foundation. The fund would allow principals to distribute money based on need, offering short-term loans or free lunches for students without lunch money based on the student's circumstance.
Wolfe said district leaders have not yet decided whether to accept the full $5,000 now or to accept only the money needed to cover current debt-- about $1,500-- and ask Aber to put the rest toward the endowed fund.
Wolfe told the community members present at the meeting as well as those watching on television at home not to be afraid to bring issues to the board.
"There will be times, whether it's this issue or other ones, that someone needs to have the passion and the courage to bring them to our attention," Wolfe said. "These issues can be worked out and resolved, and we luckily have a very charitable community that's willing to step up and help kids."
For more information about No Child Goes Hungry, visit the charitable fund's Fabebook Page. Donations can be made to "No Child Goes Hungry" at PNC Bank.
In other business at Monday's meeting, the board approved a transfer of $1,544,576 in leftover local funds from the district's Ohio Facilities Construction Commission Project to a building fund to pay for renovations at Ashland High School. While the district can keep the leftover money from local taxpayers, it had to return $1,073,349 of unused state share money to the state.
The district also transferred $146,874 in interest from the project to the permanent improvement fund and returned $2,029 interest to the state.