School officials meet Michelle Obama

Published 6:24 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

At Brock Elementary in Slidell, La. are (L-R) Maureen Alexander, Betty Ingram, First Lady Michelle Obama, Loretta Bunn, Beverly Miller and Tom Ferguson. (Contributed photo)

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

For Maureen Alexander and other Shelby County Schools officials, the chance to meet First Lady Michelle Obama came out of nowhere.

“It all happened pretty quickly,” said Alexander, the child nutrition program coordinator for the school system. “It was really exciting.”

School officials received an invitation Sept. 2 to visit Brock Elementary School in Slidell, La. on Sept. 8.

Obama made the visit to Brock Elementary Sept. 8 to promote her “Let’s Move!” campaign against childhood obesity.

Brock Elementary School is part of the St. Tammany Parish school district, which has been recognized for having 25 schools earn the Gold Award of Distinction through the HealthierUS School Challenge program of the United States Department of Agriculture.

“We didn’t have much time because that was before Labor Day, and between Thursday and Monday we had to get everything squared away,” Alexander said.

Shelby County Schools officials were invited to attend because the Shelby County School District also has 20 schools, including all the county’s elementary and intermediate schools, honored with the Gold Award of Distinction.

When the Shelby County officials, including Alexander, Assistant Superintendent Tom Ferguson Vincent Elementary principal Beverly Miller, Child Nutrition Program Area Manager Betty Ingram and Thompson Intermediate’s Child Nutrition Program Manager Loretta Bunn, arrived at Brock Elementary, they were escorted to the first row to listen to Obama’s speech about the importance of school nutrition and wellness.

“The first lady did mention us in her remarks,” Alexander said. “After she gave her remarks, she came down and was just very, very gracious. She just grabbed my arm and said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you all came.’ She thanked us for all we’ve been doing.”

Alexander said Obama is sending a formal letter with her personal signature to every principal of the 20 Shelby County schools honored through the program.

“I thought that was a nice touch,” Alexander said. “My only regret was that everybody couldn’t have been there. You wish everybody could have been there. We were very, very proud.”

Alexander said the honors just keep coming for the child nutrition program, even though school officials are only trying to fulfill their duty to the students.

The school system has a central wellness policy, as well as wellness coordinators at each school. There is also a core menu implemented in every school, and a nutritional database to provide analysis of each meal served. The database is linked to the Shelby County Schools website.

“It took time to get our act together, so to speak, but we had no idea when it was all said and done we were going to be some of the first nationally,” Alexander said. “We were just going about our business and doing what we felt like we should do. We had no idea we were kind of leading the pack.”