Feds want data on Germantown High lunches

Samenia Mayer: GHS mentor
Samenia Mayer: GHS mentor
Posted: July 28, 2010

The U.S. Department of Labor has asked the school district for records of their investigation into allegations by a former Boys & Girls Club employee that teachers were eating their Germantown High students' federally funded lunches.

A district spokesman could not confirm yesterday whether any documents had been turned over but reiterated that an investigation found whistle-blower Samenia Mayer's complaints unfounded.

Leni Fortson, spokeswoman for the Labor Department, said that officials had requested information from the district but that she could not provide further details.

"Until we get the information, we can't speculate about what will happen," she said.

Mayer, who was hired by the Boys & Girls Club to help coordinate the Step It Up Mentoring Program at the high school, alleged that she'd seen several teachers taking lunches - usually hoagies, chips, fruit, cookies and juice or water - before the meals were distributed to students participating in the freshman transition Summer Bridge program.

Mayer said the lunches were served a few days out of the week as incentives to maintain student attendance.

She said the problem became so bad that school officials ordered additional bagged lunches to accommodate the shortage, which she said left many students without food.

District officials say that at no time did volunteers and staff members eat meals before students were fed. The district also said that regular free lunches are also offered to students.

But several student volunteers and staffers confirmed that they had seen some teachers digging into the lunches or taking several bags home.

Mayer brought her concerns to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, whose aides suggested that she inform the principal, Margaret Mullen-Bavwidinsi, who turned around and booted her from the school, Mayer said.

She said staffers sent her pictures of signs that went up around the building the next day warning teachers not to eat the students' food.

Mayer said that the lunches were paid for as part of a $6.5 million DOL grant. But, in a statement yesterday, school district officials said that no federal guidelines had been violated since the special lunches were bought by mostly student-raised money.

"These meals are paid for through [school-activity funds] and not from the Department of Labor grant dollars," the statement read.

But a source familiar with the grant said invoices for the meals, made out to Frank's Family Deli, in Germantown, were paid for by funds linked to the DOL grant.

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