By Mark Ward 2013-12-30 17:27:44
Two SNA award winners and state presidents reflect on stepping down after hitting important career highs. Meet Lorrayne Corley Fall 2013 marked the first time in 40 years that school started in Randolph County, W.Va., without Lorrayne Corley. Most of her career was spent in Randolph County classrooms as a home economics and vocational education teacher. “But I had a desire to direct school nutrition before I retired,” she notes, and Corley got her wish in 2001. She made each of her dozen years as child nutrition director for Randolph County Public Schools count. By the time she retired last summer, Corley had been a two-time president (2009-10 and 2012-13) of the West Virginia School Nutrition Association (WVSNA) and was recognized as the 2013 state and regional winner of SNA’s Outstanding Director of the Year Award. Life Well Lived Now enjoying a well-earned respite from professional pursuits, Corley reflects on a life spent in the Randolph County seat of Elkins—a town of 7,000 residents where, as one travel guide relates, “You can stand on any street…and turn in all directions and see forest-covered mountains rimming the city.” Her family ran the local flower shop, and Corley remembers a childhood highlighted by 4-H involvement and a growing interest in home economics. “Those classes teach life skills you can use every day,” she declares, “and it’s so sad that, today, so many students—and families—lack these skills.” The prospect of teaching life skills to young people is what prompted Corley to earn her own home economics degree from West Virginia’s Concord University. A substitute teacher position for two years in Elkins led her to working full-time as a home economics teacher for six years, before moving to the district’s vocational education program, where she taught foodservice-level cooking. During 20 years in that role, Corley often assisted the school nutrition director with staff training. That exposure sparked a desire to someday direct the school meals program as a capstone to her career. When Corley got the job, she recalls, “The biggest change was working with adults instead of students. In fact, some of our cooks were former students of mine, who were all grown up!” Another significant challenge was to take the skills she had learned as a teacher—and through a Marshall University master’s degree in vocational education—and transfer them to the high-volume production needs of a school nutrition operation that served 4,200 students at 15 schools. Gains and Growth Looking back on her years as a director, Corley is especially proud of gains made in school breakfast participation. At the end of SY 2012-13, many school sites were serving breakfast daily to between one-half and two-thirds of their students. She’s also pleased to have led the district’s 12 elementary schools to take advantage of the Community Eligibility Option made available through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This option allows schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students, based on participation data from other community programs, such as foster care, Head Start and SNAP/Food Stamps, instead of individual applications. Corley also looks back on her SNA and WVSNA involvement as keys to her relatively speedy success. “I joined right away when I became director,” she recounts. “Immediately, it made me feel a part of the profession and of what’s going on in school nutrition. And getting my staff involved increased their professionalism and sense of ownership in their job performance.” Given her commitment to service, the decision to retire was difficult. In 2012, Corley suffered an accident that required a long recovery. “Being a nutrition director in a small town is a 24/7 job,” she states, “and the accident took away my ability to work that hard.” But Corley can and does look at the bright side: “My husband had already retired. We both want to travel more—and I’ll be teaching a class in quilting, which is a passion for me!” While she has handed over the keys to her old office, Corley insists she is not walking away from school nutrition. She remains active as WVSNA’s immediate past president and current membership chair. “I’ll always be an advocate for our kids!” she affirms. Current Title: Retired School Nutrition Director City, State: Elkins, W.Va. Nickname: “Rainy” Favorite School Food As a Kid: Macaroni and cheese Profession You’d Choose If Not School Nutrition: Nursing Someone You Admire: Senator Jae Spears (deceased) Top of Your Bucket List: Take an Alaskan cruise Meet Donna Campbell Named Arizona’s 2013 Outstanding Director of the Year, Donna Campbell, also immediate past president of the state affiliate, is at the top of her profession. But she’s the first to admit that hers has not been the “typical” career path in school nutrition. While many have risen to the director’s chair after stints in other foodservice segments, dietetics or industry—or after climbing the career ladder from manager and assistant director positions—few come to the job straight from a secretarial post. Yet Campbell’s initiative, and a wealth of acquired knowledge she earned over a decade as department secretary, so impressed her superiors that they promoted her to child nutrition coordinator for Alhambra Elementary School District #68 in Phoenix, Ariz. Inspiring Confidence “When I was secretary,” Campbell recounts, “I was always asking questions about how and why things were done and volunteering to help out with more duties around the department. I joined SNA, served as our local chapter treasurer and started going to state conferences.” Campbell also had the advantage of working and learning under a veteran director who served 30 years before retiring in 1997. At that point, Campbell transferred to the district’s business services office to work as secretary to the assistant superintendent, who oversees the school nutrition operation. But when Alhambra’s new foodservice director left after only a year, Campbell was asked to step up. That was more than 15 years ago. Since then, Campbell has many school nutrition achievements to tout—especially her staff development initiatives. “Mentoring others gives me a lot of satisfaction,” she says, describing a formal program she initiated: Retired managers are invited to come back and work a few days a week, placed alongside new managers to pass along their expertise. “The key to effective mentoring is communicating not just what to do, but why it’s done and how it has impact,” she notes. Campbell herself meets biweekly with her managers and conducts an annual orientation training for all staff. Throughout the year, a “buddy system” program pairs employees who mentor one another on safety and sanitation practices. High-quality performance is honored through monthly employee recognition awards, and annual safety awards are given to cafeteria teams that make it through the year without any accidents. Membership in the School Nutrition Association of Arizona (SNAAZ) is encouraged, and Campbell’s budget underwrites the registration fees for attendance at the annual SNAAZ Professional Growth Conference. Nutrition has gotten a big boost under Campbell’s leadership, as all 15 serving sites in the Alhambra district are USDA Team Nutrition schools. Nine of these schools have been awarded grants to participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. A summer foodservice program provides free meals to area students at 10 sites. Love of Leadership Through Campbell’s service as SNAAZ conference committee treasurer, fundraising chair, and then secretary, vice president, presidentelect and, finally, 2012-13 president, she has enjoyed “huge benefits through networking, sharing ideas, not having to reinvent the wheel, growing as a leader and communicator and making great friendships.” All these accomplishments and relationships, though, made Campbell’s decision to retire at the end of SY 2013-14 a difficult one. She looks forward to maintaining her volunteer service, consulting and staying active in SNAAZ. Until then, she says, “I’m doing everything I can to help smooth the transition for the district.” In retiring, Campbell is closing the loop on a multi-generational “family affair” with the Alhambra district. “Two of my aunts were cafeteria managers here in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, and one of them became a field supervisor,” she relates. “This is also the school district that I grew up in. I had a cousin who became a principal, and my husband just retired after 18 years in the district as a welder.” Being named Arizona’s 2013 Outstanding Director of the Year “makes me feel like I accomplished something in my career,” Campbell says. “But really, the greater accomplishment is helping a generation of kids in my community get a better start in life.” Current Title: Child Nutrition Coordinator City, State: Phoenix, Ariz. Nickname: “Red” Profession You’d Choose If Not School Nutrition: Craft artisan Bedside Book/Magazine: Real Simple magazine Someone You Admire: Princess Diana Top of Your Bucket List: See Alaska and Ireland Mark Ward is a freelance writer in Victoria, Texas.
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