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Administrator Demoted Due to School Lunch Scandal

Susan Fortin was suspended for five days without pay and loses her job as an assistant principal at Coelho Middle School. She will be reassigned as a teacher.

Coelho Middle School's assistant principal has lost her title due to her alleged role in the school lunch scandal that gained national attention , according to The Sun Chronicle. The newspaper reported  Attleboro school district Superintendent Pia Durkin released a statement saying Susan Fortin was suspended five days without pay and will be reassigned as a teacher.

Attleboro made national headlines earlier this month when it was revealed 35 to 45 students who had insufficient funds in their accounts were denied lunch or forced to throw their food away. Whitsons Culinary Group, the private company contracted to provide food service for the school district, fired four employees in the aftermath of the scandal. Whitsons and the school district say the practice is not to deny food to students with insufficient accounts.

Parents, including one who spoke at a recent school committee meeting, said Fortin made an announcement during lunch saying students with insufficient account balances would not receive meals.  

SickandTired April 23, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Just to be clear - Susan Fortin was ASKED by Whitson's to make the announcement regarding students with insufficient account balances would not be allowed to charge. It was not her decision. Should she have known better? Maybe. But, let's not forget the FACTS here: 1) there is no policy from Whitson's - just a verbal 'understanding'. So, how does Fortin enforce a policy that only does not exist, but changes without notice or communication? 2) the cafeteria staff work for Whitson's not Fortin or the school district. So, how does Fortin know she can override a decision made by a vendor? Oh, she 'should have known'. Really? I suspect that if Fortin over reached her authority, there would be backlash for that as well so where do we draw the line? That's what POLICY is for. 3) this is not the first time kids have been denied charging lunch (first time made to throw it away, yes). Matter of fact, in January Principal Boles changed the non-existent 'policy' so that instead of giving cheese sandwiches to kids without money, kids would get a full lunch instead. So, one can conclude that personnel higher than Fortin knew there was an issue but nothing was done about it - except to keep changing the non-existent 'policy' to whatever the whim of the week was. Accountability starts at the top down, not bottom up. All this firing of Whitson's staff and demotion of Fortin is way over the top. Do we have a WRITTEN policy yet Whitson's/Attleboro school district?
cuckoo April 23, 2013 at 12:53 PM
Fortin knew those lunches were being thrown away. She may not have realized it at the outset when the first lunch was tossed. But she knew they were being tossed. All of those administrators who were in the lunchroom at the time should be suspended. They should have immediately stepped in and stopped the waste, fed the children and made calls/sent notification to their parents to rectify the situation. Totally heartless fiends.
deb of see-attleboro April 23, 2013 at 01:53 PM
1) The VP should have known better. Period. For that matter, the servers should have known better. 2) An administrator should not be expected to take direction from a private vendor. They are administrator's not only because of their education and experience. They are administrators because they have proven they are of sound mind and can exercise good judgement. (At least one would hope) On the other hand, the servers were just doing what they were told. They should not have been fired. 3) Eliminate the expense account. if students fall in arrears, the school immediately pays for one BASIC lunch. Parents are notified by phone, text, email etc. 4) If a child shows up regularly with no lunch and no money, the school should report this to social services. This could be a red flag. If nothing else, the parents may be embarrassed enough to become responsible parents,
Bill K. April 23, 2013 at 02:22 PM
@SickandTired As the 2nd in command at the school, I would suppose that Ms Fortin has a graduate degree and a few 5+ years under her belt as a teacher. 1.) So therefore I'm also supposing she has the cognitive functionality to question Whitson's "verbal understanding" when denying a child a meal and since she did not then shame on her. 2.) The cafeteria staff does work for Whitson, and they report to a Whitson supervisor / manager who reports to the principal /administration of the school. No voice should be louder that that of the principal / vice principal. Ms Fortin apparently never reached / exercised her authority level thus allowing a vendor to determine what is best. So again,Shame on Ms Fortin for allowing this to happen. 3.) The investigation revealed that there was an apparent lapse on Ms Fortin's part in not doing her best on behalf of the children, thus her demotion. Accountability does not start at the top, Accountability should be oubiquitous.
Gretchen Robinson April 23, 2013 at 07:04 PM
you guys are tough. Whatever happened to people learning their lesson and that being enough? forgiveness? or eternal shaming and this demotion going on the VPs record. What do you people want, the offenders to grovel and be totally humiliated. Is there a sense of proportion here?? Enough of your judgmentalism. Be done with it, please. You are right/they were wrong. Now get over your self-righteousness.
deb of see-attleboro April 23, 2013 at 09:52 PM
We're tough!? You're joking right? You know what's "tough"? Forcing a child to dump his/her lunch and watching them go hungry. That takes a heart of stone.
SickandTired April 23, 2013 at 11:19 PM
I agree with Gretchen. @deb of see-attleboro: I believe that Gretchen's point is that the punishment should fit the crime. There was no need to fire 4 members of the cafeteria staff (especially the ones cooking and unaware of what's going on) and demote someone for making a mistake. If everyone that made a mistake at work were subject to these consequences, there would be nobody working! These 5 people were made scapegoats plain and simple. If everyone is so concerned about the kids, why is nobody asking WHERE'S THE POLICY THAT SHOULD'VE BEEN CREATED BY NOW SO THIS DOESN'T EVER HAPPEN AGAIN? Nobody is asking because the real priority here is to make heads roll for a mistake that could have been avoided had policy been clearly stated when Whitson's was hired 4 years ago. But let's forget about the cause of the issue and just make sure we punish those that made a mistake. You've got to be joking! Not one outraged parent seems to care that this situation can happen again because there is STILL NO POLICY. Why don't you hop on that band wagon and go after those in charge that still have a job and make them DO THEIR JOB!? Clearly, all that anyone appears to care about is that consequences were incurred. Check - now next on the list.......... FIX THE PROBLEM!!!!
deb of see-attleboro April 24, 2013 at 12:01 AM
What do we disagree about, sickandtired? I wrote in my first comment that the servers should not have been fired. I can't say if the assistant principal got what she deserved. Some might think she got off easy. Others might agree she is another scapegoat. I just don't believe administrator's should be taking orders from a private vendor IF that is what happened. Parent's without any other option are required to put their children through the government schools. Society expects the care to be sufficient. The most basic need of a child is a healthy meal. I do not think that is asking too much. This is not just a simple mistake, IMO. Modeling and teaching empathy should be job number one of all adults in leadership positions. In case you haven't noticed, the world has gone mad. I also agree there should be a policy. But when there is no policy, people should be exercising good judgement. It is not good judgement to withhold food from a hungry child.
GC April 24, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Where is the outrage that parents are sending their children to school with no money and no food? It is not the responsibility of Whitson's to feed all students for free. Parents find out they do not need to pay for lunch, the kids will receive it anyway, so they abuse the system, teaching their children a lesson about taking advantage of the generosity of others. These parents that are outraged should be embarrassed about how irresponsible they were to send their children to school like this.
SickandTired April 24, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Unfortunately the only outrage has been taken out on 4 staff members of Whitson's and the vice principal. What kind of message does this send: Well if you work for Whitson's and you happen to be anywhere in the vicinity of another employee making a mistake, you will likely be fired. If you are the vice principal (who's job description i can assure you does not include lunch duty) and you do the principal a favor by taking on additional responsibilities that should be given to para-professionals or mothers of the kids attending, don't make a bad judgement call because you'll need to update your resume immediately after your reputation is dragged through the mud. So listen up teachers, secretaries, janitors and anyone else working for the school department: do the bare minimum - it's much safer. Great message, huh?
Terese Bohaxiu-Dicastiglione April 24, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Did you miss the whole issue about the fact that there is no way for the parents to get an accounting or a balance of their children's accounts from the system they are forced to use? I do not blame the parents in this case. On the other hand, I will say that when my child was in middle school in another town, there was an informal fund of money in the office from which kids who forgot their day's lunch money could borrow for the day and then repay the next day. There were several kids who were wise to the system and always borrowed and never repaid. I think their parents had to be notified of their kid's behavior because the fund was depleted by their irresponsible actions. I think the parents were told that the child never had money for lunch and to please remedy the situation, because the student would have no lunch from then on if no money. That was an extreme case of the kid either having the money and not spending it, or being irresponsible in forgetting all the time.
deb of see-attleboro April 24, 2013 at 07:37 PM
I agree, Terese. This system is rigged against the parents and favors the vendor. Parents are expected to load up the account and the kids can spend the money any way they see fit. Not a good situation, IMO. Parents need to be put back in the pilot's seat and the school needs to be the "wing man".
Richard Davis April 25, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Oh please you parents have no clue. There are two parties to blame. The company administering the credit with the parents. The parents should have received formal notification that their accounts were due. And the parents.should always make sure that their children have money for lunch. You send your child to school using a credit plan and take no responsibility for ensuring your account is up to date. Are you kidding me? Total stupidity and lack of responsibility. Schools have to take too much responsibility for the bad parenting that goes on in this day. Sue Fortin is a terrific educator and administrator. The school system is lucky to have her and the teachers will atest to it. The Superintendent should be shamed for letting Sue take the brunt of this poor policy handling.
Jeanne Dyer April 29, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Sue Fortin was promoted because of a body of work that set her apart as an exemplary leader. On one afternoon she judged that what she was being told was true and beyond question and as a consequence 35 to 40 students and their parents believe themselves to be grievously victimized. She has paid for that afternoon's decision with her job as an administrator, instead of with progressive discipline given the lack of policy. Let's move on and let her return to making the kind of contributions that preceded her promotion, for surely they will follow. Those of us who know her have no doubts.
J Kelly May 10, 2013 at 04:10 PM
What I get sick and tired of is people who make silly statements regarding an administrator's decision. What she did was wrong! If she was unclear on her responsibilities regarding the private vendor, then it was her responsibility in her role to check with the principal and/or superintendent prior to making such a decision. Stop defending a "professional" (?), who completely disregarded the well being of the students she is paid to serve! She is very lucky she has a job at all.

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