Rhonda Humble
Edgerton senior citizens may yet benefit from could be a precedent-setting meal voucher program announced by County Commissioner Calvin Hayden last September.
Kudos to the county, Edgerton and USD 231 staff  who are working to come together on a proposed pilot program that would allow Edgerton seniors to receive meal vouchers to be used at Edgerton Elementary.
Edgerton is the only Johnson County community that does not have a nutrition center program for senior citizens; currently, and for many years, a monthly meal has been coordinated through a volunteer, who is retiring at the end of this year.
Donald Roberts, Edgerton mayor, has previously said providing services to the community’s seniors is a high priority.
And in September, Hayden announced during a luncheon that the meal voucher program could be a pilot inter-generational program, and both seniors and students could see benefit.
Although an e mail from a county employee last week seemed to indicate USD 231 was no longer interested in working with the county on the program, according to a post on the district’s website under Board Briefs, as well as related.e-mails from Ron Ragan, board president, apparently both government entities still hope to work together to make the program happen.
Although The Gardner News has yet to receive a specific response to the original December 4 e-mails to Leeann Northway, USD 231 communications director, regarding the program, an approximate timeline of the events follow:
Request timeline
The Gardner News request for information to Northway,
Dec. 4, 2012
On Sept. 19, Commissioner Calvin Hayden announced to Edgerton senior citizens the county was working on a cooperative project with USD 231/ Edgerton Elementary.
He said the proposed pilot program was part of an inter-generational effort between the county and school district. As I’m sure you are aware, Edgerton does not have a nutrition center, and until this month, their potluck has been done thru volunteer labor. The volunteer coordinator is retiring.
In September, Mr. Hayden said the program was awaiting implementation of the new USDA guidelines.
I am working on a follow up story and would appreciate your comments.
Has the district been contacted or made any progress on this proposed program?
Do we have a projected start date?
Who is the point person on the cooperative effort between Edgerton, county and USD 231?
Any comments or concerns or information you believe is important to note?
Thank you. A quick response would be appreciated.
Rhonda Humble
Northway’s response
I have forwarded your request to Dr. Gilhaus for clarification.  He is in executive meeting all morning.  I am not aware of the program you are referencing.
Leann Northway
Director of Community Relations
Gardner Edgerton School District
231 E. Madison St.
Gardner, Kansas 66030
913-856—- – Office913——– Cell
CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE AND DISCLAIMER: This email and any attachments are confidential and may contain privileged or copyright information.  Please do not copy, distribute or use this email or the information contained in it for any purpose.  If you are not the intended recipient, please inform the school district that you have received this message in error.>
> <[email protected]> 12/4/2012 2:58 PM >>>
From: Collins, Deborah, HS
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2012 11:07 AM
To: ‘[email protected]’; Hayden, Calvin, BOC
Cc: Tanquary, Nancy, HS; Goodman, Dan, HS
Subject: FW: Edgerton senior meal vouchers, Calvin Hayden gave me your name
Good Morning, Ms. Humble,
I was out of the office tied up in interviews all day yesterday so am just today getting to this e-mail.
Thank you for your interest in the Senior Meal program that we are considering as a pilot project  for the Edgerton school district.  Unfortunately, we have not made much progress since Commissioner Hayden made the announcement back in September that we had an idea for an inter-generational  pilot program between our Area Agency on Aging and the Edgerton Grade School.   Unfortunately, the school district has  been consumed with new nutrition standards and healthy guidelines for the Kansas Child Nutrition Program this fall, and frankly, we felt it may be a bit overwhelming to try and pin them down on a new program at the same time they were swamped with these new standards.  The good news is that our Nutrition Manager, Nancy Tanquary, has a meeting set up with the Gardner Edgerton Food Service Director next week to begin serious discussion about our idea.
However, it should be noted that we are proceeding with great caution as we have fears of possible budget cuts to federal and state funds in 2013 for the nutrition programs.  I have attached an Older Americans Act fact sheet regarding the increase in costs for the Kansas Nutrition providers over the past four years.  You can see from the fact sheet that costs to meal providers continue to rise, donations are down, and the possibility of cuts from state and federal sources adds no comfort.  Nevertheless, we are committed to doing what we can to launch this innovative program, as we feel the more options we can provide to our Seniors, the better.
If and when the program gets off the ground, we welcome your assistance in getting the word out to the seniors. We envision this program will be the first of its kind in the nation. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done.
We would be happy to keep you posted on our progress with the School District.  Fingers crossed, we can find a way to partner with them and bring a positive nutrition program to the seniors in Edgerton, who are hopeful for a closer to home option.  Without having had a serious discussion with the school district representatives, we are unable to provide more detail.
I would suggest that additional questions be directed to Nancy Tanquary, our Nutrition Manager.
Deborah Collins, Director
Johnson County Human Services
County e mail, CC’d to Calvin Hayden Dec. 5, 2012
Update:  this morning, we received word from the Gardner-Edgerton Food Service Manager that they are no longer interested in discussing the new meal program that we had proposed.  I don’t know exactly what changed, but at this point we no longer have a meeting scheduled for next week.
We would still be very interested in trying to bring the program to Edgerton, should they have a change of heart.  At this time, we may consider approaching the DeSoto or Spring Hill School Districts to see if we can find a home for this pilot project.
Debbie Collins
On Dec 5, 2012, at 11:11 AM, “<[email protected]>”
Thank you Leeann.
I already got word this morning from the county that USD 231 is not interested in pursuing the proposal. I left a message for you this morning, and I’d appreciate your response.
“I am not aware of the program you are referencing.”
County says USD 231 nixes senior meals pilot program
Rhonda Humble
The Gardner Edgerton School District is no longer interested in working with the county on a proposed intergenerational pilot program that would allow Edgerton senior citizens to receive vouchers for meals at Edgerton Elementary.
The meal program was announced by Calvin Hayden, county commissioner, in September. Edgerton is the only community in Johnson County that doesn’t have a nutrition center.
Senior meals have been coordinated by Barb Moody for many years, but she is retiring this month. That leaves Edgerton senior citizens with no where to go.
The pilot program would have been a cooperative effort funded by the county and state in cooperation with the USD 231 school district, Hayden has said.
After the original talks with the district, Hayden said the county held off on the proposal until the district made required changes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the lunch program.
But the district has apparently changed its mind.
“This morning, we received word from the Gardner-Edgerton (School District) Food Service Manager that they are no longer interested in discussing the new meal program that we had proposed,” wrote Deborah Collins, Johnson County Human Services in an e-mail.  “I don’t know exactly what changed, but at this point we no longer have a meeting scheduled for next week.”
“We would still be very interested in trying to bring the program to Edgerton, should they have a change of heart,” wrote Collins. “At this time, we may consider approaching the De Soto or Spring Hill school districts to see if we can find a home for this pilot project.”
Leann Northway, community relations director, replied by email that she had forwarded the newspaper’s preliminary questions to Bill Gilhaus, superintendent, for clarification.
“I am not aware of the program you are referencing,” Northway e-mailed.
—–Original Message—–
From: Leann Northway <[email protected]>
To: trirhonda <[email protected]>
Sent: Wed, Dec 5, 2012 12:49 pm
Subject: Re: Edgerton senior vouchers
Rhonda, would you mind sharing the name of your contact at the county?
Sent from my iPhone
The Gardner News response to USD 231 Dec. 7, prior to the Dec. 10 board meeting
Sorry, I’ve been in meetings. My contact was Deborah Collins in HS at the county.
Board brief on the USD 231 website following the Dec. 10 meeting
Johnson County Commissioner Addresses Board
Johnson County 6th District Commissioner Calvin Hayden addressed the members of the Board of the Education, USD 231 Administrators and guests in regards to an online article published by The Gardner News on December 5.  The article’s headline read, “County says USD 231 Nixes Senior Meals Pilot Program.”
Mr. Hayden stated the headline and content of the article was untrue and was taken out of context.  “I want to apologize, sincerely, for an article that had misinformation that was posted online at Gardner News,” said Hayden.
“The first sentence in the article that read, ‘school district is no longer interested in working with the county on a proposed intergenerational pilot program that would allow Edgerton senior citizens to receive vouchers for meals at Edgerton Elementary,’ is completely untrue,” said Hayden. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Johnson County staff was in the process of looking into options to provide meals for senior citizens in the Edgerton area.   Currently, the seniors are provided meals at an Edgerton church; however, this program will no longer be available.  The County began considering other options.  Mr. Hayden asked his staff to begin working on a possible pilot program that would provide meals for the elderly in Edgerton.
Preliminary plans for the program at the County level involved the possibility of serving lunch meals in the Edgerton Elementary School cafeteria for area senior citizens.   Gardner Edgerton Director of Nutrition Services Carol Semrau was approached by the County staff member in August of a possible partnership.
After a brief discussion on the subject, Semrau informed the County that a program such as this includes many logistical challenges and is not a decision the school district can approve on its own.  The program would need to be approved by the State since the Public School Food Service Program is a federally-ran program.  A meeting was scheduled to discuss the program with state officials, but was cancelled due to the official being out of town.
“It’s that simple,” said Mr. Hayden.  “I apologize for any miscommunication that led to this inaccurate reporting.”
“We appreciate the Commissioner requesting to address the Board on these unfortunate inaccuracies published in the Gardner News,” said Dr. Gilhaus.  “The school district and County are on the same page on this issue as well as many others and, if given the opportunity, would work together in hopes to make this program happen as well.”
“This was an issue of miscommunication, but more than that, it was an issue of misreporting,” said Board of Education President Ron Ragan.  “If we can do something to expand and assist the community in a much greater way, we are on board.  I would also like to add, when articles referencing the school district are published in the local paper and raises concern or questions, we ask that patrons please contact the district personally for clarification and accuracy.”
Sent after Board Briefs were published on USD 231 website.
From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:09 PM
To: [email protected]; [email protected]
Subject: Fwd: Update on Edgerton Meal program
Although I am happy to be the district’s scapegoat, my reporting was not inaccurate, as you can see by the email I am copying you; this is the word I received from the county. I called and sent an email to Ms. Northway asking for the district’s point person, and several questions as well and am still waiting for a response. She e mailed me she had contacted Bill Gilhaus; I have yet to receive a response from either.
Rather than continuing to try to discredit the newspaper, why didn’t someone respond to my contacts and let me give the district accolades for endorsing the program?
—–Original Message—–
From: Ron Ragan <[email protected]>
To: trirhonda <[email protected]>; ‘Mary Herbert’ <[email protected]>; Randy Fruits <[email protected]>; Mark Grannell <[email protected]>; mikemcnulty <[email protected]>; trayburn <[email protected]>; ‘James Repshire’ <[email protected]>
Cc: ‘Bill Gilhaus’ <[email protected]>; Leann Northway <[email protected]>; semrauc <[email protected]>
Sent: Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:38 am
Subject: RE: Update on Edgerton Meal program
Dear Rhonda,
No scapegoat is necessary or required. What is necessary and required is that the truth be printed. While the “title” to your article is written appropriately based on the information you received from Miss Collins, the very first sentence of the article is completely false. That sentence reads, “The Gardner Edgerton School District is no longer interested in working with the county on a proposed intergenerational pilot program that would allow Edgerton senior citizens to receive vouchers for meals at Edgerton Elementary.” That statement couldn’t be any further from the truth and at no point did anyone from USD 231 make that statement or anything closely resembling that statement to you, anyone at your newspaper or anyone at the County. I strongly encourage you to look up the definition of “responsible journalism”. If you follow up with Miss Collins I think you’ll find that there was a miscommunication regarding status of this program and USD 231’s potential involvement with the program. The correspondence you received from Miss Northway indicated she wasn’t aware of the program you are referencing. How is it possible that you can translate that into the first sentence of your article? Wouldn’t it seem possible and highly likely to you that she wouldn’t be aware of a program that doesn’t exist yet? Rather than waiting for clarification from USD 231 on the status of this program you chose to run the article as written. Had you or anyone from the Gardner News been in attendance at the Board Meeting on Monday night they would have heard Commissioner Hayden state very clearly that the county and USD 231 are still working on a potential solution to provide meals to Edgerton senior citizens. You can reference our board briefs which address this issue as well and were posted well prior to you sending me this reply. I’m not sure how you can interpret USD 231 clarifying its involvement with the program and the current status of this program as “discrediting” the newspaper. The only “dis” caused by your article is the potential “dis”appointment of senior citizens in Edgerton who were left with the impression from your article that this program was without potential hope of continuation. That hope is still very much alive. In regard to accolades I’m not sure those are in order at this point. There is still much work to be done to see if we can provide this meal program at Edgerton Elementary. Since our school lunch program involves federal and/or state dollars for funding there are numerous restrictions and guidelines in place. This continuation of this program is much needed in Edgerton and we sincerely hope it can be accomplished and Edgerton Elementary can host it. Our food services director, Carol Semrau has a long track record of doing what the district can to expand food programs throughout the district as evidenced by our backpack program and summer lunch program and I’m confident that if this can be accomplished, Carol will find a way to put it in place.
Ron Ragan
USD 231
Board President
Cell (913) 5-4
Fax (913) 938-5261
email: [email protected]
From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 11:59 AM
To: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Subject: Re: Update on Edgerton Meal program
Thank you for responding on behalf of the board.
We do agree the truth should be printed.
We also agree that the proposed senior voucher plan can be an excellent program that can benefit our community, and it’s unfortunate that it is now mired in controversy when my original intent was to provide positive coverage for all entities concerned.
At any time in the chain of emails, someone from the district could have contacted me, and much of this could have been averted. I have never questioned that Carol Semrau is an excellent employee, as are many others at the district. I hope to be able to tell their stories, as they are certainly deserving of positive recognition.
Had someone informed me the county and district were continuing discussions, I would have been happy to write an article of post an update to the original article; however, other than your response, I have yet to receive contact regarding this issue from a district employee.
My regards –
Rhonda Humble
—–Original Message—–
From: Ron Ragan <[email protected]>
To: trirhonda <[email protected]>; Mherbert <[email protected]>; randyfruits <[email protected]>; mlgrannell <[email protected]>; mikemcnulty <[email protected]>; trayburn <[email protected]>; jrepshire <[email protected]>
Cc: gilhausb <[email protected]>; NorthwayL <[email protected]>; semrauc <[email protected]>; calvin.hayden <[email protected]>; mayor <[email protected]>; blinn <[email protected]>
Sent: Thu, Dec 13, 2012 12:26 pm
Subject: RE: Update on Edgerton Meal program
Whether or not you had been contacted by someone from the District does not excuse printing false and inaccurate statements which you clearly did via the first sentence in your article. If you original intent as you state it was to provide “positive” coverage for all entities concerned, I’m not sure what “positive” for any of the parties concerned could come out of a misrepresented report stating “USD 231 nixes senior meals pilot program”. This program or anything associated with it is not “mired in controversy”. Both the county and USD 231 are in agreement that discussions are continuing regarding implementing this very worthwhile program. More importantly, it is very apparent to me that the Gardner News’ limited resources and staff are unable to accurately cover the numerous events and activities occurring in this rapidly growing school district.
Ron Ragan
USD 231
Board President
Cell (913) 5—2—
Fax (913) 938-5261
email: [email protected]
–Original Message—–
From: trirhonda <[email protected]>
To: ron <[email protected]>; Mherbert <[email protected]>; randyfruits <[email protected]>; mlgrannell <[email protected]>; mikemcnulty <[email protected]>; trayburn <[email protected]>; jrepshire <[email protected]>
Cc: gilhausb <[email protected]>; NorthwayL <[email protected]>; semrauc <[email protected]>; calvin.hayden <[email protected]>; mayor <[email protected]>; blinn <[email protected]>
Sent: Thu, Dec 13, 2012 12:31 pm
Subject: Re: Update on Edgerton Meal program
Thank you for your opinion. It is duly noted.
Rhonda Humble
Publishers note – Other than the USD 231 posting (above and under Board Briefs (http://www.usd231.com/webUSD231/Forms/SubPage.aspx?menu=614_212_1)
on the USD 231 website, and e mails from Ragan, The Gardner News has yet to receive a response from district employees Gilhaus or Northway regarding the original questions and e mail sent Dec. 4, 2012.
We will be glad to publish any response we receive in addition to updates on this story as it progresses.
Again, our congratulations to the county, USD 231 and Edgerton; but most particularly the Edgerton senior citizens.
That’s what it is all about.
Our thanks to all those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make our community better.