Lucretia Chancler SNA Member Since 2008 • Opelousas, Louisiana Lucretia Chancler, MS, LDN, RD, SNS, oversees school meal programs for a mid-size, rural parish (the Louisiana equivalent of a county). The school district in St. Landry Parish enrolls 14,200 students in 34 schools spread across towns with picturesque names like Opelousas, Grand Sunset, Plaisance and Palmetto, and where Creole and Cajun culture have a strong influence; more than 15% of the population speaks French or Cajun French at home. Lucretia’s own Louisiana roots run deep, and although she’s just turning 40, the 2016 SNA Director of the Year has long been turning heads. On Achievement One of my proudest achievements is implementing and expanding our district’s summer feeding bus program. It’s a bridge to the community, helping to close the gap between school and summer, and feeding the kids who need a meal. This was a problem that needed solving, and I went to conferences and saw what others were doing, and felt inspired to implement some of the things I learned. I’m also really proud that we have area managers now, who oversee groups of school sites. Our cafeteria managers needed a person they could depend on, and with 34 schools, I can’t reach everyone as I’d like to! On Inspiration It’s important to make sure the next generation has opportunities to achieve, too. Every summer, we have one worker who will be a senior in high school in the fall. I want to be a good role model and help this student make good choices about life and a career. It’s so important at this age to have someone who will listen to you. Plus, these students always come back to visit us because we’ve made lifelong relationships! I got into school foodservice because of Mabel Bobb, who was the school nutrition supervisor when I was in high school. She was a very strong leader who always encouraged me, and she helped me get my first job in East Baton Rouge Parish as a cafeteria manager. These days, I’m inspired by my colleagues in the Southwest Louisiana Supervisor Group. I meet with them every month. We all have it rough some days, while other days are awesome. This is the group that I can go to with my problems or my triumphs. On a personal level, I’m inspired by my mother. She’s my biggest fan—I can have the worst day ever, and I call her and she always makes it better. She survived a brain aneurysm when I was in second grade; she always tells me, “If I die tomorrow, I will go happy, knowing you have become the woman I always wanted you to be.” I also depend on my church family and my fiancé Conrad, who always has a supportive word when I have a dark day. He uplifts me, jokes with me and helps me decompress when I come home. On Leadership For me, leadership means having a passion for service. A leader is that person who’s willing to sacrifice for their passion and is dedicated to stepping up. A leader is also someone who helps others take a leadership role, who empowers and motivates people. I try to develop and lift up my staff. I know I can’t do it alone. I have to know when to step up and when to step back and let others take the leadership role. It’s a little bit different in my volunteer role as an SNA of Louisiana program chair: I don’t have staff to motivate! But I do get my school staff involved in the Association; they may play a small role, but a lot of small roles lead to big things! When I arrived here in St. Landry Parish, I had already been involved in SNA state associations in Georgia and Texas, so I was surprised to find that they did things a little differently in Louisiana! I had to be more proactive to find out who the association officers were, how to pay my dues, etc. … but I sought out the answers. And in doing so, I networked and made great friends. I think my top leadership skill is my dedication: I can have the worst day, but I will stick it out, because things must get accomplished. I have a “Type A” personality! I want to organize, compartmentalize, list out the steps and then get the job done. I’m also empathetic: I can put myself in someone else’s shoes and approach a problem from that perspective. I try to adjust my methods of leadership, since you can’t lead the same way with everyone. It’s all about really listening to people and hearing what they have to say. My personal motto is: Do the best that you can, for as long as you can. My mom taught me that no one is better than you and you are no better than anyone else, but you should always put your best into everything you do. On Challenges & Goals When you have changing administrations, you have to learn to roll with the punches, because when people don’t understand what you do, they often make uninformed choices that affect you. Recently, our district was building a new cafeteria, and I requested a washer and dryer. I felt dismissed, because the person in charge didn’t have any idea that this was important equipment in a school kitchen! Such challenges make you learn patience. You have to just pause and breathe. You are a stronger person for every challenge you overcome, and you learn how to pick your battles. My next career goal is to make sure all my cafeterias are updated, and to implement a true and achievable financial plan that’s sustainable in the face of all the cuts we’ve been having. That way, if I ever do decide to leave, the program will be OK over the long term because of what I’ve implemented. As for life goals, I have plenty of those! I get married in December and turn 40 this month, and we really want to start a family right away. So, that’s what I’m focused on: Stabilizing my program and sharing my life with the love of my life. As told to Susan Davis Gryder, a freelance writer in Silver Spring, Md., who also grew up in Louisiana. 30-SECOND BIO CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN Palmetto, Louisiana CURRENT HOMETOWN Palmetto, Louisiana EDUCATION B.S. in Dietetics, Southern University; M.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University YEARS IN SCHOOL NUTRITION 16 TITLE Supervisor of Child Nutrition EMPLOYER St. Landry Parish (La.) School Board PROGRAM AT A GLANCE Operates lunch, breakfast, afterschool supper and summer meal programs. SNA LEADERSHIP National School Lunch Week Chairperson, SNA of Louisiana FAMILY Fiancé Conrad and puppy Gizmo
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