While July 1st may just seem like your ordinary, typical summer day, it has a whole new meaning this year. July 1 is the effective date for the new Professional Standards. I discussed the proposed rule in a previous blog (if you missed that post; check it out here!). Now that the rules are official I’d like to take a closer look. If you are a current school nutrition professional you have nothing to fear—you will be grandfathered into these standards. However, it is important to be aware of and understand Final Rule requirements because they affect your hiring and training processes.
Education and experience is crucial
In the proposed rule the USDA outlined four district sizes which are the basis for requirements. However, in the final edition only three sizes are defined: small (2,499 students or less), medium (2,500 – 9,999 students), and large districts (10,000+ students). In the final professional standards rule districts over 25,000 students are no longer used as a barometer. Just as in the proposed rule, professional standard requirements increase as the size of the district increases. Education and experience are at the forefront of these standards. As a whole, requirements decreased from those found in the proposed rule. See the graphic below for a quick outline of the educational requirements.
Less Training Requirements
As was seen in the proposed rule, the final rule requires school nutrition directors, managers and staff to adhere to certain training requirements. The final rule reduces the required number of annual continuing education units for all school nutrition professionals. Training requirements will be phased in, starting in the 2015-2016 school year, with final achievement in the 2016-2017 year. From this point on, directors will complete a minimum of 12 hours of training annually. Managers must complete a minimum of 10 hours, and staff should complete no less than 6 hours of training. Staff members working part-time (less than 20 hours a week) are expected to complete a standard minimum 4 hours of training. This is different from the proposed ruling where the amount of training was to be proportional to the amount of time worked. I know all of this information may be overwhelming—see the training requirements below for a quick overview.
The proposed rule stated that each school nutrition department needs to monitor and track the mandatory requirements. In the final rule, this still applies along with the requirement to maintain training records for three years. This can be accomplished through a variety of methods, such as with carefully designed spreadsheets or software from your software vendor. No matter which you choose, it is important to keep track of all your employees and their CEU hours.
Get the grant
Thankfully, the federal government has announced the availability of up to $4 million in funding for states implementing the new standards. These funds will be allocated on a competitive basis and awarded to implement trainings that meet the professional standards rule. Any state agency administering NSLP and SBP can apply for the Professional Standards Grant. Each state agency can request up to $150,000 to implement the new standards. To be considered for the federal grant, Letters of Intent must be submitted by April 14, 2015 and completed applications are due no later than June 8, 2015. The request for applications can be found here.
USDA realizes that change will be a challenging, so tools are in place to ease the growing pains. For instance, a comprehensive professional standards website to provide school nutrition staff access to important tools is available. The site allows professionals to easily search for trainings that meet their learning needs. Other tools found on the new Professional Standards dedicated site include webinars, online training modules, training material, manuals, and much more!
Whether you are a school nutrition director, manager or staff member, these final rules will affect you in some shape or form. What do you think of the USDA’s final professional standards rule? How will it change procedures within your program?