Thursday, May 27, 2010

School Lunches. Have They Contributed To District 150's Suspension Rate?

(Pictured: Monday's 5/24 ground beef at PPD150)

In my initial post "Black Education In Peoria, We Are Under-served" I raised the issue of the minority suspension rate within Peoria Public School District 150. Remember that these were the District supplied facts and statistics that suggest that we have a problem:

For the school year 2008-2009 District 150 enrolled approximately 14,722 students.

  • Approximately 61.1% or about 8,995 of students were Black

  • In 2008-2009 school year there were approximately 7,189 out of school suspensions. This is a 48% overall suspension rate.

  • 86% of all suspensions (6,206 suspensions) were incidents involving Black students.

  • A core of 2,567 Black students generated 6,206 suspensions mentioned above.

  • This means that the suspension rate of minority students (Black students) was 28.5%
Now the critic simply blames all of what we are experiencing upon the parents and rude children, but state wide, the minority suspension rate is up, which is quite an alarming trend. An April 2010 AP report by way of the Chicago Tribune, stated the following regarding the suspensions and expulsions of minority students in Illinois public schools:
— Suspensions of black students increased 75 percent from 1999-2008, while those of white students dropped five percent.
— In 2007-08, blacks accounted for 51 percent of all suspensions, even though they make up about one-fifth of the student enrollment. Whites accounted for 28 percent of the suspensions, although they make up nearly three-fifths of the enrollment.
— Expulsions of black students increased 56 percent from 1999-2008, while those of whites increased 16 percent.
— In 2007-08, blacks accounted for 48 percent of all expulsions, and whites accounted for 33 percent.
— Since 1989, suspensions have grown by 82 percent and expulsions by 171 percent, while the statewide school enrollment has increased 18 percent.
— It matters little where in the state students attend school — Chicago, suburbs, rural or urban areas, affluent or low-income. In all cases, blacks were disciplined at higher rates than whites, especially compared to their proportion of the enrollment
There is a higher disciplinary rate for Black students in Illinois. Now, unless one is willing to believe that the Black community from which these students are coming is just somehow letting down the standard of behavior and education out of hand, we should look at the factors that feed into these occurrences. In this article we will focus on one of them.  

Diet & Nutrition
(Pictured: Monday 5/24 1st tray of grease pulled off the ground beef that was fed to the students) 

 For sure there are many areas of concern and many moral and value issues must be addressed both within the family and amongst the teaching community. However, there is another issue, equally as important and impacting, that has been overlooked in traditional educational settings. School lunches and lunch programs have received much attention as of late. Most recently school board member Dr. Gorenz addressed school meals from the standpoint of providing healthy choices:

"From a medical standpoint, it would seem like we should at least have that discussion - that's one thing we do control and that's a huge amount of empty calories that we provide directly or indirectly to students," ~ Dr. D. Gorenz PJStar 5/11/10

What he failed to do however, was to make mention of the link between a quality meal and student behavior. We should ask that question for I believe it is fair when we look at District 150 suspension rate and numbers.

At first glance it may seem that meals at school have nothing or very little to do with behavioral problems at school. Quite the contrary is true. Current studies affirm that the quality of meals at schools directly effect child behavior, attention span, focus and all of the things that children need to have a successful educational day. This is one area that Peoria Public schools have failed to address when addressing student behavior. Are our children being malnourished at school?

In a school district with 61 to 62% Black students, it's no wonder that a good portion of those students either pay for or received the public school lunch and breakfast at a free or reduced cost. We believe that it is the obligation of District 150 to examine the scope, extent and the effects of the current lunch program upon the students.

As stated above, current statistics identify that approximately 2,567 students generated about 6,206 suspensions. Exact data of how many students are on a free or reduced lunch program are out at the present but it is easy to imagine that there are at least 2,500 to 3,000 students on the program. In other words there are many students on the program and complaints regarding the quality of the meals abound. Here is recent information that we have received from various sources regarding the lunch program as currently administered 

  • In Feb. 2010 after being audited, the food vendor, Chartwells, gave instructions to increase portion size on their meals because the children were being under-served. How long they had been under serving the children went without note.

  • Until approximately March 2010 the cheese that was delivered by Chartwells to the cafeterias to provide sandwiches for students who either didn't have a lunch or couldn't afford a lunch had ZERO nutritional value in ALL nutritional value categories. Once again, the modification has been recent to an alternate type and brand of cheese. 

  • Chartwells seems to have a food delivery plan that offers different quality lunch and meals to different size and types of schools. The public school system seems to receive a lower quality meal than other types of schools. 

  • Lunch participation and purchase at many schools has decreased dramatically and lots of food is being thrown away because it is either cold, unprepared (even when prepared according to standards) or of poor quality. 

  • As pictured above, the grease contained within the ground beef used to prepare various dishes is excessive and of low quality.

  • According to the menu, every Wednesday is breakfast for lunch day. This usually consists of 2 small sausages, 2 small pancakes, and fruit and a drink. After having observed the children eat the lunch for myself, it's no wonder there are problems after lunch almost every day.      
Example Of A Change:

This situation is by no means hopeless. In Appleton, WI a change in the lunch was made and a total change in student behavior was observed almost immediately. The following PDF is a case study on what happened in Appleton and why Peoria Public Schools should do a study on what it would take to do the same. The question is do they have the will to do the same?
From the results of Appleton, WI, we can see that diet and exercise have a direct and positive effect on student behavior. This slight change of direction changed the plotted course of school performance and satisfaction for all students. We have an opportunity to do the same for our children.

A good lunch not only improves student behavior, potentially lowering school suspensions and expulsions, but also increases test scores. New York with over 1 Million students saw a dramatic increase in test scores when the school lunch program was modified and upgraded to provide nutritional and desirable lunches.

This is one step among many that can be done. However, with that said we must ask the following questions: 

  • Has District 150 seriously considered the effects of school lunch on child behavior?

  • Has District 150 have an action plan to address the disparity of suspensions among minority children?

  • Does District 150 have the will to study and address this issue and give a definitive and educated answer to their current and future position on the issue?
This is over a $3 Million per year industry in Peoria. The true costs are measured in the educational experiences of District 150 children and the perception of families both inside and outside of the District. With so much at stake, District 150 cannot sit silently on this issue. I for one do not plan to allow them to simply skirt by. There are over 14,000 reasons for my participation and 2 of them are at the top of that list.

Pastor Harvey Burnett
Exec. Director



Diet and nutrition related to learning ability:

The science behind feeding the brain:

Nutrition behavior and learning:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What Is The Real Measure Of 500 Feet?

Peoria Pastors Join Riverside Community Church In Raising Concerns Over Big Al's Relocation

In a Tuesday May 25th article in the Peoria Journal Star, Riverside Community Church (Pastor John King) voiced their concern over an ordinance that the City Of Peoria either wasn't aware of or simply didn't care about violating as it pertains to the relocation of a Peoria strip-club. The disagreement may put the brakes on a $102 million hotel development project.

The controversy centers around Big Al's strip club and it's proposed new proximity to Riverside Church. Depending upon how it is measured, Riverside's facilities would be approximately 380 feet away from the proposed relocation site of Big Al's. This is problematic as the ordinance calls for an adult use establishment to remain a minimum distance of 500 feet from a church, school or other adult use establishment and 700 feet from any residentially zoned properties.

Up until Riverside voiced their concern, it seemed that noone stopped to consider what Big Al's relocation would mean to adjacent businesses or organizations. Part of that was probably due to the fact that Big Al's is close to a church already and another part may stem from an unsuccessful case that was tried and lost to Elliott's strip-club in North Peoria. At either rate it seemed that the council had "tunnel vision" with little discussion for a standing city ordinance and how that would relate to Riverside church. Riverside is a visible and valuable asset to the Peoria Community. Riverside Community Church adds significant value to the residents of Peoria, IL. and has been used for many public event which the city has endorsed.

Riverside's website states the following:
"Since arriving in the City of Peoria, Riverside has renovated two rapidly deteriorating landmark buildings within the city, and in doing so has invested $4.5 million in these buildings with no monetary support from the government. Riverside invests over $200,000 annually on programs that directly benefit the inner-city of Peoria. Through our Dream Center Peoria programs over the last eight years we have provided 14,000 backpacks with school supplies to kids in need, and this year we are introducing a program for school kids’ uniforms. We help over 500 families a month with clothing, food, household goods and furniture. Our state of the art youth facility provides a safe environment for kids in the city to flourish and find refuge from the streets. Our AOK events mobilize volunteers from over 10 churches to impact 10 targeted areas of the city through acts of service on a Saturday, every other month. And from fall to spring each year more than 250 kids and youth participate in DCP athletics. In addition, Riverside invests over a million dollars annually into the local economy.

I have written to all of our city council members. In the letter I stated, “The reasons the original ordinance was passed are the same reasons we appeal to you to vote for the upholding of the said ordinance - the safe guarding of women, youth and children within the vicinity. Please, this must be your main concern, as it is ours. We want to appeal to you as the representative of the people to please vote to uphold the law - the original ordinance.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Black Education In Peoria...We Are Under-served

Sad Results Of A Peculiar Condition

According to a 2003 informational release by the US Justice Dept.

  • 10.4% of the entire African American population aged 25 to 29 was incarcerated. By comparison 2.4% of Hispanic men and 1.2% of white men in the same age group suffered the same fate.

  • US prison population surpassed 2 million for the first time and since 1990 has doubled in size.

  • 10,000 inmates under age 18 are held in adult prisons and jails in 2002

  • Women in federal prison reached 97,491

  • In 2000, 791,600 black men were in prison while only 463,700 were enrolled in college nationwide. 
According to a 2008 report from the Justice Policy Institute

  • 3,161 African-Americans per 100,000 were under the custody or care of federal or state penile system, this compares to 1,200 per 100,000 Hispanics and 487 per 100,000 whites. This means that black men in the United States are 6.5 times more likely to be in prison than white men and that Hispanics are 2.5 times more likely to be in prison than white men.  
These numbers are astounding and only tell part of the story. One could question how education could be associated with these sort of results. Although these numbers don't tell a simple story, education, and lack of educational opportunities, even  if that means squandered educational opportunities, have contributed to many of the current trends that we see in crime and the sheer incarceration numbers that we find within the black community in general. Although in many cases the table of justice has been slanted against the poor and minority, the inability to secure and experience a quality education cannot go without examination.

Access to education and a solid educational experience is a must in order to create and facilitate change within society. Across the nation, Black students tend to be suspended at much higher rates than students of other races or ethnicities (Hoffman, Llagas, & Snyder, 2003). Based on what we know and what we are currently experiencing we must hold Peoria District 150 accountable and we must hold the results of the educational experience of the black and minority community under greater scrutiny.

Peoria Dist. 150 Black Student Suspension Rate:

Here is why we are concerned:

  • For the school year 2008-2009 district 150 enrolled approximately 14,722 students.

  • Approximately 61.1% or about 8,995 of students were Black

  • In 2008-2009 school year there were approximately 7,189 out of school suspensions. This is a 48% overall suspension rate.

  • 86% of all suspensions (6,206 suspensions) were incidents involving Black students. 

  • A core of 2,567 Black students generated 6,206 suspensions mentioned above. 

  • This means that the suspension rate of minority students (Black students) was 28.5%