DeKalb schools honored for vegetarian-friendly food

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ youth affiliate, peta2, has named the DeKalb County School System one of the five most vegetarian-friendly public school districts in the nation.

Joyce Wimberly, the district’s school nutrition director, has introduced an array of vegetarian selections, including veggie burgers and vegetarian tacos.

“It is essential that we consider all of our students’ dietary preferences and, in doing so, we offer a variety of menu options to our students. At the end of the day, our mission is provide healthy options that are conducive to our students’ wellness, making it easy for them to learn during the school day, retain information and enjoy the educational process DeKalb provides,” Wimberly said.

DeKalb, Georgia’s third-largest school district, joins school systems in Berkeley, Calif., Cambridge, Mass., Pasco County, Fla., and Orange County, Fla., on the peta2 list.

“We congratulate DeKalb County schools for meeting students’ growing hunger for healthy, delicious and humane vegetarian food,” said Dan Shannon, peta2’s assistant director. “The district has shown that keeping fit, trim and healthy — and helping animals and the environment at the same time — have never been easier.”

DeKalb has provided those food options while offering the cheapest meals among school system’s in the metro area. To raise an additional $2 million next year, however, the school system plans to increase meal prices by 10 to 25 cents. Under the new pricing, breakfast will cost $1.10 for elementary school students, $1.20 for middle and high school students, and $1.50 for adults, and lunch will cost $1.75 for elementary school students, $1.90 for middle school students, $2 for high school students and $2.75 for adults.

Proposed operational budget cut by 4.8%

The DeKalb County Board of Education on April 13 received a proposed budget for the next school year that would cut the general operations budget by $43 million, or 4.8 percent, to $851.1 million.

Superintendent Crawford Lewis’ proposed budget is balanced and does not require a tax increase. It assumes a recession-driven decline in the property tax digest of 1.7 percent.

The budget cuts reflect a reduction in the state’s per-pupil funding and reduce the percentage of school system spending dedicated to salaries and benefits from 91.6 percent to 89.1 percent. The bulk of the savings come from two efforts: the Comprehensive Restructure Plan, which the school board approved this fiscal year and which will save $25.7 million over two years and eliminate 127 part-time and central office positions; and the increase of maximum class sizes by two students, allowing the district to employ 275 fewer teachers.

Overall, expenditures directed toward instruction and school-based initiatives make up 77.8 percent of the general operations budget.

Including capital outlays and other spending outside general operations, DeKalb school system plans to spend $1.13 billion in fiscal 2010, which starts July 1. The school board plans to adopt the budget at its regular meeting May 11.

Marist teachers on the move this summer

Two teachers at Brookhaven’s Marist School recently received awards that will allow them to study abroad this summer.

Al Grindon, the chairman of the religious studies department, won a grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities that will allow him to spend six weeks studying St. Francis of Assissi in the Italian cities of Siena and Assisi.

Tracy Kaminer, who teaches world literature, is one of 20 teachers in the nation who won Korea Society Summer Fellowships. She will spend two weeks in South Korea learning about the country’s history and culture.