Uintah parents don't want their beloved lunch lady to take the fall for taking away student's lunches

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – It’s been 35 days since school lunches were taken out of the hands of students at Uintah Elementary School and thrown away. Since then policy has been changed to ensure that never happens again, but questions over who is responsible for making that decision remains unanswered.


At the Salt Lake City School Board meeting Tuesday night Matthew Rich had this to say to board members, “I don’t think anyone disagrees that enforcing the policy that has since been changed, and is so poor to begin with, was a bad decision but apologies alone are insufficient; we expect more.”


Due to the outcry from upset parents the board hired auditing firm, “Squire and Company” to look at policies and procedures, but Tuesday voted to put out a request for proposal to hire a private investigator to find out who’s actually to blame. Although the parents are the ones who called for a independent investigation many don’t have much faith that in the end the right people will be held accountable.


“The question I have here is why if we’re investigating what happened in the lunch room, why are we not investigating the superintendent where this decision, I feel, came from?” asked frustrated parent Kevin Conway.


Several parents at the meeting stood up for the person they fear might take the fall the lunch debacle, Uintah’s long-time lunch lady Shirley.


Uintah parent Jessica Guynn spoke before the board, “The only person in the whole chain of command who had the foresight and compassion to not follow the bad policy was Shirley.”


Guynn says when her daughter came home hungry on January 28th the first person she called was Shirley. Guynn told ABC 4 Utah, “She said the district came in, ‘it broke my heart to take their lunches. I was crying the whole time. I’m just devastated.’ I’m not sure if devastated was the word she used, but that was the sentiment. She was so sorry and so sad.”


Now these parents fear Shirley’s boss, Director of Child Nutrition Services Kelly Orton, is making moves to save his skin by placing the blame on their beloved lunch lady.


Guynn said, “Kelly has made repeated visits to Shirley at school; surprise food inspections, talking to her, quizzing her, grilling her, they say very aggressively. The parents who told me this have spoken to Shirley personally and she is very fearful of losing her job.”


That’s why the parents asked one more thing of the board Tuesday night.


Parent Ashley Hoopes said, “We want assurances that no school lunch workers will be terminated until that external investigation is completed.”


Board members weren’t able to answer questions or concerns the parents had at the meeting, but made a decision to answer as many of their questions that they can in the near future.


They’re asking concerned parents to send their questions to Kristina.kindl@slcschools.org by March 11th.  They’ll review the questions in a private meeting on the 12th, and any questions they can answer themselves without the help of investigators they have promised to answer. It’s unclear if these answers will come out in the form of a press release, on their website or answered at the next board meeting. The board will make that decision on the 12th.

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