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Fine Dining at Chez Principal

Every year second through fifth graders look forward to receiving a formal invitation in the mail to attend a lunch with one of our elementary co-principals, Vince d’Assis and Ivy Summers, where they’re treated like guests at a fine restaurant. Once a week, a group of five to six students is invited to dine at “Chez Principal,” which this year takes place in Room 6, our kindergarten aftercare room.

Vince was the host last Wednesday at the first in-person principals’ lunch since the pandemic began. When the five second graders entered the room, they found a beautifully set table, with a tablecloth, flowers, decorations, and a napkin tied in color-coordinated ribbons. “We want it to feel special, fancy,” says Sue Tacker, our special projects person, who coordinates the meals. “It sets the tone

for the lunch.”

Once the young guests were seated, Sue and Office receptionist Katie O’Callaghan served them the first of two courses (the second was dessert), artfully arranged on their plates, like you’d find in an upscale restaurant. The menu changes every year, and it’s kept secret so the children will be surprised. Sue and the co-principals choose meals that will appeal to young diners. One year it was spaghetti; another year it was “Mexican pizza.”

The lunches “help kids feel at ease with us and to see us as a resource rather than a scary, distant authority,” Ivy explains. “We want them to feel free to approach us with questions, ideas, or problems.”

The lunches also give her and Vince a chance to spend time with the students in a setting that’s different from the classroom or playground. “It’s fun for us to see how they grow each year and to see their changing interests and how they relate to their peers and to us,” she says.

What do they talk about? Families, pets, hobbies, outside activities, holidays, what they’re learning in class—whatever’s on their minds.

The lunches are also an opportunity for students to practice using their best manners with their peers. “Some kids know to put their napkin in their lap and to ask for things to be passed around the table, and some haven’t had the opportunity to practice those skills with their peers,” Vince says.

* * *

When the school closed in the early days of COVID, there were still some fourth and fifth graders who hadn’t had their lunch with a co-principal yet. We weren’t going to let a global pandemic deprive them of that. We’d do it like were doing everything else at the time: virtually.

Sue packed a lunch for each invited guest for their parents to pick up shortly before the meal was to begin. On the menu were grilled cheese sandwiches from George’s Giant Burgers and a dessert from Brioche Bakery, both in Walnut Creek. She added a small plate of fruit and vegetables, a festive napkin tied with ribbons, and a tiny flower arrangement in floral foam to keep it fresh. Then, at 12:30, everyone logged on to Zoom and shared lunch together. “The lunches all went very well,” says Vince, who hosted the lunches. (Ivy was on maternity leave.) “It was wonderful to see the children. They loved the food and

seemed like old pros at Zoom.”


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