Breakfast shouldn’t be on the principals



“For Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, it’s not enough that the Philadelphia School District offers free breakfast to every single child in every single city school. Now, principals must coax the students into eating it.


Under a new district policy, principals will be held accountable for the number of student breakfasts eaten in each school. District officials reason that including breakfast participation in a principal’s performance rating will increase the number of students taking advantage of these free meals.


This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Breakfast shouldn’t be on the principals”.  Please click here to read the entire article.  You can respond or provide feedback by clicking on the comment button below.


Thanks for reading.


–Christopher Paslay


2 thoughts on “Breakfast shouldn’t be on the principals

  1. Before recently retiring, I spent 38 years as a classroom teacher/reading specialist for the Sch. Dist. of Phila., teaching in some of the most impoverished schools in North and West Philadelphia. While I agree on the importance of a student having a nutritious breakfast before school and that having principals held accountable for making sure their students have that federally funded meal, I also believe it is a burden worth bearing. I do not believe that children should be punished for the sins of their parents in abdicating their responsiblity for rearing their own children, with that responsibility now falling to the “state,” in this case our educational system.
    The reason that many schools moved to having all their students wear uniforms was to remove the stigma of poorer children being unable to buy expensive sneakers and clothing, thus setting them up as objects of ridicule for those who could. There is also a stigma attached to eating the school breakfast and lunch because it identifies those children as coming from families that cannot provide those meals for themselves. That is why I’ve always been a proponent of, like all students must wear the uniform, all students must eat the same meals. Having to fill out those forms by giving them to only certain students who then have to return them to school, only increases the chances that those actions will be noticed and increase the chance the child will be further stigmatized. I have personally witnessed this hazing of my poorer students which points out how cruel children can be and how devasting it was for the student being ridiculed.
    While having programs that go out into the community that help parents better navigate the world we live in is commendable. we must always look at the consequences of those actions and how they affect the lives of our students, which is our #1 priority, before before making blanket statements about the worth of certain programs. It is important to always keep in mind we’re dealing with human lives, not some widget on a third world sweat shop assembly line.

  2. Dear Professor Paslay:

    Thank you for your excellently written article, “Breakfast Shouldn’t Be on the Principals,” which appeared in the October 13, 2009, issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Your observations therein are 100% accurate. It is evident to any observant professional working in education or in any other management position that those who are actively involved in pursuit of personal achievements will respond much more aggressively when they have invested time, energy, and currency in goals. In general, those who have nothing risked are most likely to quit or not fully participate. That appears to be human nature.

    I’ve taught extensively since 1973, mainly at the secondary level and in adult education. As recently as last night, one of my adult learners insisted she would complete every scheduled G.E.D. preparation class–in spite of the fact that she would be taking the G.E.D. test today (before the program is actually completed). She stated, “I paid for those classes!” She has a vested interest and insists on getting the full value of her purchase.

    Philadelphia parents must be constantly challenged to participate completely in every aspect of their child’s education: That and the child’s general welfare are their only mandates. As such, it is an outright insult that our parents are precluded from documenting their child’s involvement in such an extraordinary opportunity that provides the most basic nutrition to those eager brains. We must do everything possible to facilitate the protocols of the program’s providers so that this special food-offering will continue, even if authorities feel it appears to be “too daunting.”

    Community activists and other interested people, such as myself, should be enlisted as volunteers to go into those homes where parents would require assistance in completing forms. Additionally, parents who do not show an interest in their children should be visited at their residence or jobs by officials (I’m not sure whom those would be) and “taught” parenting skills–even if they don’t want to. This can be done. Like community policing, we need a major shift in our various communities’ involvement in our children’s safety, welfare, and education.

    Finally, The Philadelphia Public School System must instigate these outreach programs. I’m ignorant of their activities in this area and would be surprised if such mechanisms do not already exist there. However, I am very happy and appreciative that our most precious matter is being provided with the option to get some basic nutrition in the morning in order to fuel their enlarging brains and bodies. They are our future.


    Marc O’Donnell
    North Philadelphia U.S.A.

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