The Other 60 Percent

Breakfast more common in classrooms

Fourteen-year-old Leticia Berez ate breakfast at her school on Friday morning, just as she normally does, downing breakfast burritos and milk. The ninth-grader is pretty sure that having a good breakfast every morning helps her keep her 4.0 GPA.

Noel Community Arts School ninth-grader Leticia Berez with Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Bronco Eric Decker.

“By eating healthy, it helps you make better grades,” Leticia insisted. “It keeps your mind going.”

But Friday’s breakfast at Leticia’s school, Noel Community Arts School in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood, wasn’t exactly like it always is. It’s not every day that the governor of Colorado and a Denver Bronco deliver the food, as they did on this day, rolling the breakfast carts into the school cafeteria to the cheers of students.

“Well, typically we deliver the breakfast right to the classroom,” said Bob Gorman, DPS area supervisor for nutrition services. “That way it allows each child to have a free breakfast to start the day.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver wide receiver Eric Decker – accompanied by some Denver Broncos cheerleaders and DPS Chief Operating Officer David Suppes – came to Noel on Friday, breakfast carts in tow, to kick off this week’s National School Breakfast Week and Fuel Up to Play 60, a National Dairy Council program that stresses healthy eating and physical activity for students.

“I have to admit, I was one of those weird kids who had about six milks at lunch, getting a double lunch, because I knew it was very important,” Decker told the cheering students.

Leticia knows too. She wrote a prize-winning essay on the importance of school breakfast that won her an autographed jersey from Decker – and a hug.

Breakfast has increasingly become a focus for school nutritionists, both as a means to provide one more meal to low-income students whose families may not have adequate food in the house and to ensure that all students, regardless of family income, don’t start the day hungry. At schools that have breakfast in the classroom, as Noel and 26 other DPS schools do, breakfast is free for everyone.

Studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better on standardized tests and make fewer mistakes in math.

A recent Share Our Strength survey found that one in five children in Colorado are at risk of hunger, and the state’s rate of children in poverty is the fastest-growing in the nation.

By the numbers
  • One in five children in Colorado are at risk of hunger
  • Of the 217,000 children who ate federally subsidized lunches in Colorado in 2010, only 87,000 also ate breakfast
  • Between 2009-10 and 2010-11, the number of breakfasts served in Colorado schools grew from an average of 97,540 daily to 108,509, an 11 percent increase
  • Hunger Free Colorado’s goal is to have 130,000 breakfasts served in school by 2015.

Yet of the 217,000 low-income children who ate free or reduced-price lunches in Colorado schools in 2010, only 87,000 participated in a school breakfast program. So expanding the program so that more schools participate has become a top priority for Hunger Free Colorado.

Last year, the organization partnered with the state to launch the School Breakfast Challenge to encourage schools to get more eligible children to participate in school breakfast. Between the 2009-10 school year and 2010-11, the number of breakfasts served in Colorado schools rose from an average of 97,540 daily to 108,509, an 11 percent increase. The percentage of students eating school breakfast grew from 12.15 to 13.35 during that same time.

Hunger Free Colorado’s goal is to have 130,000 breakfasts served in the state’s schools by 2015.

In January, winners of the School Breakfast Challenge were announced. All the winners switched from serving a traditional breakfast in the school cafeteria to a breakfast in the classroom model, which lets students eat at their desks, making it part of their instructional time.

Katherine Moos, public affairs and development manager at Hunger Free Colorado, said there are good reasons to switch from breakfast served in the cafeteria to breakfast served in the classroom.

“Sometimes it’s only the noticeably poor who participate, so some children might need it, but it’s not emotionally comfortable for them to eat in the cafeteria before school. It’s stigmatizing.”

“We’ve found in many schools, when breakfast is served in cafeteria before school, it’s difficult to access,” she said. “Even though the staff is there, they’ve prepared a meal to eat, but the kids don’t get there, or buses get there late, or there’s pressure to hang out with kids on the playground.

“Sometimes it’s only the noticeably poor who participate, so some children might need it, but it’s not emotionally comfortable for them to eat in the cafeteria before school. It’s stigmatizing.”

Clayton Elementary in Aurora, the winner in the Breakfast Challenge, moved to a breakfast in the classroom model and boosted its participation rate 72 percent.

At present, DPS serves about 20,000 free breakfasts every day to students, including breakfast in the classroom in 27 schools. That’s nearly double the number of schools that participated in the breakfast in the classroom program last year.

A governor, a Bronco and some cheerleaders kick off National School Breakfast Week

change up

Just as Lower East Side integration plan takes off, superintendent who helped craft it steps down

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Carry Chan, left, will become acting superintendent in District 1 when Daniella Phillips, right, leaves this month to join the central education department.

The longtime superintendent of the Manhattan community district where parents pushed for a plan to desegregate the local schools is stepping down just as the plan gets underway.

After a decade at the helm of District 1, which includes the Lower East Side and East Village, Superintendent Daniella Phillips is leaving to join the central education department, Chalkbeat has learned. During the yearslong campaign for an integration plan, Phillips acted as a liaison between parents and the education department, which finally approved a new admissions system for the district’s elementary schools this fall.

She will be replaced by Carry Chan, who has also played a role in the district’s diversity efforts as the interim head of a new Family Resource Center, an information hub to help district parents sort through their school options. Chan takes over as acting superintendent on Dec. 18.

The leadership change comes at a crucial time for the district, which also includes a portion of Chinatown. Parents are currently applying to elementary schools, marking the first admissions cycle under the new enrollment system. Under the system, schools give certain students admissions priority based on their economic status and other factors, with the goal of every elementary school enrolling share of disadvantaged students similar to the district average.

It will be up to the new superintendent to help schools recruit and welcome a greater mix of families, and to help steer parents towards a wider range of schools. Advocates hope the district can become a model for the city.

“There is a torch that needs to be carried in order to really, fully execute,” said Naomi Peña, president of the district’s parent council. “The next superintendent has to be a champion for the mission and the cause.”

During heated public meetings, Phillips tried to keep the peace while serving as a go-between for frustrated integration advocates and reluctant education department officials. The tensions sometimes boiled over, with advocates directing their anger at Phillips — though they were eventually won-over and endorsed the final integration plan.

In her new role, she will oversee school consolidations as part of the education department’s Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships. In District 1, Phillips helped steer three such mergers, which often involve combining small, low-performing schools with ones that are higher achieving.

“It has been such a joy and privilege to be District 1 superintendent for over 10 years, and I’m excited for this next chapter in the district and my career,” Phillips said in an emailed statement.

Chan is a former principal who launched the School for Global Leaders, a middle school that focuses on community service projects and offers Mandarin classes. Last year, she joined the education department’s Manhattan support center, where she helped schools form partnerships in order to learn from one another.

Since October, Chan has served as the interim director of District 1’s Family Resource Center, which is seen as an integral part of making the new diversity plan work. Families must apply for seats in the district’s elementary schools, which do not have attendance zones like other districts. The family center aims to arm families with more information about their options, in the hopes that they will consider schools they may not have previously.

“I think we’re all really passionate about this plan and we really want this to work,” Chan said. “Communication is the key, and being transparent with how we’re progressing with this work.”

more sleeping time

Jeffco schools will study pushing back high school start times

Wheat Ridge High School teacher, Stephanie Rossi, left, teaching during her sophomore AP U.S. History class September 25, 2014. (Photo By Andy Cross / The Denver Post)

Jeffco Public Schools will convene a study group this spring to look at whether high school students should start school later in the mornings.

“People started raising it to me when I started doing the listening tour as something they were interested in,” said Jeffco Superintendent Jason Glass. “We’re going to study it.”

Glass said plans call for a task force to meet about eight times over more than a year to come up with recommendations on whether the district should change high school start times, and if so, if it should be district-wide or only in some schools.

The group would need to consider the potential ripple effects of later high school start times, including needing to change transportation, possible costs to the district and the impact it could have on students’ opportunities for work, sports or other after-school activities.

The Cherry Creek and Greeley-Evans school districts moved their high school start times later in the morning this fall. Research has shown that teenagers need more sleep. It’s that research that Glass said many people cited in telling him that high school classes shouldn’t start so early.

District officials are tentatively scheduling a public meeting on February 12 to start the process. The task force would likely be created after that meeting based on people who show interest.

Glass said that if the group suggests the district push back start times, he would expect a decision before the start of the 2019-2020 school year.