By Kathy Burrill, SNS 2016-06-13 17:41:31
All it takes is a little positivity, planning, partnership and professionalism. NOW THAT ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR HAS COME TO AN END, you should be very proud of all that you and your school nutrition team have accomplished, including meeting the new requirements for USDA Professional Standards, which went into effect July 1, 2015. As you get ready to embark on “Year Two” of the training and professional development provisions of the rule, SNA continues to be your best source of helpful reminders, tips, templates and a variety of resources. Your SNA Professional Development Committee and the staff team at Headquarters recognize that SNA members around the country are still experimenting with different ways to implement professional standards, and we are here to help you succeed! You may have heard about the “4 Ps” of marketing (product, price, place and promotion). These are essential factors in the success of any marketing effort. Well, we’ve borrowed that concept to identify “4 Ps” that we consider essential in making a success of your efforts to not just comply with the Professional Standards training requirements, but capitalize on the good intent behind the rule. Let me introduce our 4 Ps for Professional Standards Success: Positivity, Planning, Partnership and Professionalism! POSITIVITY It’s all about attitude! Last spring, as part of SNA’s National Leadership Conference, attendees had the opportunity to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder® self-assessment tool offered by Gallup, Inc. (http://strengths.gallup.com/110440/About-Strengths-Finder-20.aspx). This tool is designed to help individuals understand their unique personal strengths and work to leverage these, rather than spending time improving weaknesses. I was so fortunate to be able to participate in this program, and it turns out that my top strength is POSITIVITY! This was not a huge surprise, as I make it a point to find something that I am grateful for every single day and try to look for the silver linings, rather than the thunder clouds. Over the years, I have discovered that it takes more energy to be negative than it does to be positive. I’ve found that a positive person is almost always a happy person. Long ago, I made the choice to prioritize professional development and hone my school nutrition expertise. I’ve done this by attending SNA conferences, getting my Certificate in School Nutrition, becoming involved in the Association’s leadership and then achieving the School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) Credential. It’s all helped me feel accomplished, proud and yes, positive! These types of professional achievements are within your grasp, too. When you set them as goals, working toward them with purpose, you are creating a climate for success to breed and grow. One success leads to another and another, crossing from your career to your personal life. I encourage all SNA members to embrace a positive attitude in life and at work—and, especially, when changes come along, like Professional Standards. Let’s face it, these annual training requirements are here to stay and well-intentioned. You can gripe about the frustration of another set of rules for K-12 foodservice, or you can let it go and focus on the opportunities ahead, now that you are compelled to make time for your own professional development. The result is a win-win-win! You meet the federal requirement while learning, thus improving yourself and improving your program. Many of you have always been ahead of the curve by pursuing your professional development and meeting the requirements of the SNA Certificate in School Nutrition or the SNS Credential. The new regulation helps ensure that everyone in school nutrition, not just the high achievers, completes some form of professional education each year. SNA is making it easier to use our Association membership in pursuit of both the federal regulation and the requirements for SNA’s professional development programs. That’s why SNA worked to align all of its educational programming with the specifics of the Professional Standards rule. You can meet annual training hours required by the government while also completing your SNA Certificate in School Nutrition or moving from one level to the next. There are many reasons to keep a positive attitude about Professional Standards. My favorite might be that it helps to remind me that learning something new each day is a positive thing! It keeps your mind sharp, and it gives you a sense of fulfillment. So remember, keep growing, keep learning and stay POSITIVE. REMEMBER, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! SNA is your best resource for Professional Standards, and we are here to help you understand these complex requirements. If you can’t find the answers you need at www.schoolnutrition.org/ProfessionalStandards, send an email to email@example.com, and we will do our best to help you out! PLANNING Looking forward lets you act, not react. As you prepare for the upcoming school year, make sure that Professional Standards gets as much of your attention as your plans for, say, National School Lunch Week. The key to success is ensuring that you are PLANNING an approach to fulfilling the requirement, rather than scrambling next spring, because this kept falling to the bottom of your priority list. The first step to proactive planning is a little intelligence gathering. Do you know how many training hours are required for SY 2016-17? Do you know what types of training are appropriate—and what will not count? Have you developed a system to track your training hours? Let’s start with the basics that everyone needs to know. When the new rule went into effect last year, it included a phase-in of the total number of training hours for most employee levels. So, be prepared that most of you will need to meet more training hours in SY 2016-17 than you did last year. See the box on this page for the specifics. Are you unsure what job-level category you fall into? In school nutrition, there’s a lot of variety in position titles and responsibilities. You might have a “manager” title, but have all the responsibilities of a “director.” Check with your state agency for clarification. Now, how about the rest of the details you’ll need to plan appropriately and effectively? Many of your questions are answered in “Clearing the Confusion” on page 102. Many more can be answered by turning to SNA’s one-stop, online “shop” for Professional Standards: www.schoolnutrition.org/ProfessionalStandards. Think of this resource as a hub that links you to tools developed by SNA, as well as resources that have been made available by other organizations. We all want school nutrition professionals to succeed in this endeavor! That said, Association-developed tools are exclusive SNA member benefits, and they are great reasons to join or renew your membership today! What will you find when you click through to SNA’s Professional Standards page? What won’t you find?! There are so many great resources to help you plan, and more are being developed and added all the time. Check out just two great tools: • A basic Professional Standards tracking tool developed in Microsoft Excel is a resource you can download and customize. It features dropdown menus by Key Area and Key Topics, including specific professional standards codes for each topic. This is a simple and user-friendly way to track your training or the training of your school nutrition team members. • A new Professional Standards Learning Plan provides a method of tracking for supervisors who are managing the training of their staffers. This handy tool is prepopulated with a suggested course list selected by SNA’s Professional Development Committee. The Plan provides you with options of courses for every level of staff. Don’t overlook this resource, because it includes links for quick access to 36 free training classes! I have been using the SNA tracking tool and can personally attest to it being very helpful. I will be switching to the new Learning Plan tool over the summer. I definitely urge directors, assistant directors and anyone else at the district level in charge of keeping track of employee training for Professional Standards to use this tool. I find it easy to use and helpful to have the appropriate codes for the suggested training. It also will be accepted by my state agency as a record of employee training. But those aren’t the only tools that will help you in your Professional Standards PLANNING efforts. The website also features: • Professional Standards Training Guidelines to help you develop training content or evaluate whether other training you would like to take (or to offer) counts toward professional standards; • an explanation of how SNA CEUs and Professional Standards are aligned; • specific ways to earn CEUs and annual training hours for Professional Standards; • a chart outlining the number of approved training hours permitted for exhibit hall participation (some states do not allow any such participation to count toward Professional Standards); and • key USDA resources, including a detailed FAQ and an online database of 400+ applicable training opportunities. Remember, when you are a director, you’re not just PLANNING for your own training needs, you need to identify—and schedule—the topics you’d like your staff to focus on in the coming year. Can it be done during a back-to-school inservice? Are there free SNA webinars or Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) courses on the topic? Whatever your job level, and whatever your PLAN, just remember that SNA is here to help you make professional standards a POSITIVE experience for everyone involved. PARTNERSHIP Identify and communicate with appropriate partners! Who are your partners in the mission to meet Professional Standards requirements? They are your school nutrition team members, administrators in the school/district, state agency representatives and SNA state association leaders and staff. Make it a priority to communicate regularly with each of these PARTNERS to clarify questions, eliminate confusion and comply with the rule. It starts with being willing to admit that you don’t know everything—especially when it comes to this new requirement. When I have questions—and I do, too!—I have found resources with the answers at SchoolNutrition.org, via the MNSNA executive director or from the state agency. Your state agency team is probably the most authoritative source of information, because they have the discretion to set certain standards in areas where USDA offered flexibility. These include decisions about if exhibit hall hours can count toward the Professional Standards requirement, the job-level category of your different staff members, the number of training hours that may be carried over into the next school year and the method they will use during the Administrative Review to check proof of training. Each of these questions varies by state, so be sure to check with your state agency partner. Communicating with your team about Professional Standards is also very important. I hope you all read this article and visit SchoolNutrition.org! But I also invite you and your partners to attend a free Professional Standards webinar on June 22, 2016, at 2 p.m. ET. I think it would be helpful to listen in together as a team, but if it’s an inconvenient date or time, remember that you can access it on your schedule via our on-demand webinar library (see “The Wonderful World of Webinars,” page 110). Beyond efforts to learn more about Professional Standards as a group, you need to be sure that your team members are doing their part in complying with the regulation. So, before someone on your staff attends a training program, let them know exactly what details and documentation you need from them. If someone from my team attends a training event, they send me a copy of the paperwork that shows they attended, and then I add it to the master spreadsheet I keep for the entire team. I also ask them to each keep an individual “shoebox”—either literal or virtual—of related documents. These include copies of agendas, certificates of completion, attendance rosters, etc. Keeping this all in one place will make for a smoother audit process, whether it’s during the Administrative Review or when SNA conducts random checks of CEUs for its Certificate and SNS programs. One more critical PARTNER category is school/district administrators. Some of you may not feel very supported by your administration when it comes to meeting the federal training rules. You may encounter resistance for the time and money that the team must spend on training. Educating administrators is the way to go, so that they understand this rule is here to stay. SNA is developing new tools to help you communicate this fact to administrators in your school community. Until these are ready, if you have an urgent need related to overcoming resistance, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone from the SNA Professional Development staff will try to help. PROFESSIONALISM Take pride in your profession. Maybe it’s my positive attitude, but I think that the Professional Standards requirement is another important reinforcement of the professionalism of the people who work so hard and with such dedication in this business. Just like teachers and administrators, it is now nationally required for school nutrition PROFESSIONALS to receive regular training to enhance their skills and be assured they have the qualifications to do this critical work that we do, every day: feeding our nation’s children. One reason that I am in this profession is because it is chock-full of exciting learning opportunities on a wide variety of topics. Food safety, nutrition education, farm to school, preparing meals for students with food allergies or dietary restrictions, marketing, nudging kids toward healthy options, the list goes on and on! And it demonstrates just what a complex business this is—and what it takes to be in this PROFESSION. Never consider yourself “just a” server, cook, cashier—anything!—in school nutrition. The training requirements you must meet each year are proof that you are far more than what most people expect! And on that note, I wish you all the very best as you begin to PLAN to meet the Professional Standards requirements next school year. I’m confident that with the help of your PARTNERS and a POSITIVE attitude, you will do our PROFESSION proud! THE ANC ADVANTAGE Are you attending SNA’s Annual National Conference in San Antonio, in July? Be sure to PLAN, with the guidance of your supervisor, the specific sessions that you should attend. You can earn 12 CEUs or Professional Standards hours. And make sure you get your conference training tracker that identifies specific sessions that count toward the Professional Standards requirements. The tracker is available in both paper and electronic forms. GET IN CODE MODE Did you realize that the wide variety of training topics that are appropriate for Professional Standards requirements are assigned specific codes? This is similar to the coding structure for the continuing education your family members in other professions encounter. All the topics—and related learning objectives—have been coded in each of four Key Areas: Nutrition, Operations, Administration and Communications/Marketing. This is to help individuals more easily identify the category of training they have received. (And for trainers, this will help you categorize the training you provide.) The coding of training for Professional Standards topics is not mandatory, but it is very helpful—especially in documenting your efforts with your state agency. SNA encourages its state affiliates and anyone that oversees/provides training to K-12 school nutrition professionals to code and categorize training specifically into one USDA Professional Standards subcategory topic. If it is difficult to distinguish just one specific category, please review the USDA Professional Standards Learning Objectives included in SNA’s Professional Standards Training Guidelines. You can find these tools at www.schoolnutrition.org/ProfessionalStandards. “I just wanted to drop a line and tell you how wonderful I think the Professional Standards Learning Plan tools are. They are much more user-friendly than what is out there now!” —Lynne Shore, Nutrition Services Director, Willamina (Ore.) School District Kathy Burrill is director of foodservice, Chisago Lakes (Minn.) Area Schools, and SNA’s Professional Development Committee Chair.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.