WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A Philadelphia CEO offered to cover a Wyoming school district’s outstanding lunch debts after the school warned parents that their child could be placed in foster care should they fail to pay.
- According to CEO Todd Carmichael of La Colombe Coffee, he talked to the school board of Wyoming Valley West School how best to transfer funds to pay for the students’ debts and “restore dignity to the families who received warning letters.”
- However, the school board president rejected his offer and told him ‘NO’.
A businessman’s offer to pay for unpaid lunch fees was rejected by a Pennsylvania school district that issued a warning to parents that lunch debts could result to their children being sent to foster care.
In a letter obtained by NBC News, La Colombe Coffee CEO Todd Carmichael said he was “horrified” when he heard about the alarming letters. But, when he offered the district $22,000 to cancel the lunch debts, the board president of the Wyoming Valley West School told him “NO”. NBC affiliate WBRE of Wilkes-Barre had gotten hold of the letters sent to parents.
Carmichael wrote in the letter: “On Monday, we talked to School Board President Joseph Mazur to determine the best way to transfer the funds in order to wipe the slate clean and restore dignity to the 1,000 families who received these threatening letters.”
Despite making it clear to Mazur that the offer came with no strings attached, Carmichael said, “Shockingly, Mr. Mazur turned us down. I can’t explain or justify his actions.”
It remained unclear why Carmichael’s offer was refused. Efforts to reach the Wyoming Valley West School Board by NBC News proved to be futile.
A July 9 letter sent by the district and signed by director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District, Joseph Muth, read: “Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without breakfast and/or lunch. This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food.”
Further, the letter also stated that if parents are taken to court there is a risk that their child will be “placed in foster care”. Thus, to avoid being reported to authorities, the fees should be paid as soon as possible.
WBRE reported that the unpaid debts the district is trying to collect amounts to almost $20,000.
However, via phone interview on Friday, Muth said the letter was “overzealously stated” and would then be corrected. He also added that the other letters that were sent were not quite as severe.
Several other people also offered to pay a part of or the entire school lunch debts, according to Luzerne County Manager, David Pedri. He told NBC News on Tuesday that he already forwarded the offers to the School Board for their review.