“I ‘love’ school nutrition,” she said in a recent interview. “I never dread a day getting up and going to work.”
The new employee replaced longtime school nutritionist Shelley Copeland this year, when Copeland decided to leave Cleveland and move back to her native Texas.
Perrin, who had worked with Copeland and Bradley County school nutritionist Emily Brown in recent years, was hired away from a position with Hamilton County Schools. Prior to two years with Hamilton County, she was school nutritionist with Dayton City Schools for the previous 10 years.
Although she “loves” school nutrition, Perrin admitted there is one word she dislikes when associated with her position. “I don’t like using the word ‘stress,’” she said. “Everything is an opportunity.”
Perrin says there are far too many negative ideas about school nutrition, especially in the news media.
The city’s new nutritionist said there were some challenges at the start of this school year. “I was with Hamilton County through July, so I had little preparatory time to make plans for this year. I was at in-service, before I was able to sit down at this desk.”
Although she has been slightly “pushed” at the start of the year, she says things have progressed well. “My plate is full of school nutrition, and I’m continuing to learn how things are done (in Cleveland). But, I have a lot of respect for Shelley and what she has done here.”
Focusing on how she has been able to keep up to speed, she said, “Thank goodness for laptops.”
Perrin spent her youth in North Georgia, attending Cloud Springs Elementary School and Lake View Junior High. She graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in 1978, then studied to be a dental assistant.
After four to five years in that professional, she returned to school at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, getting a degree in humanity ecology. She said this was formerly called home economics, and is now family and consumer sciences.
After graduating from UTC, Perrin spent her next 10 years with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, five years in Van Buren County and five more in Rhea County.
She left the Extension Service in 1999 to become Dayton City Schools nutrition supervisor, staying for 10 years. She has since been in Hamilton County for two years, before answering the call to come to Cleveland this year.
Perrin’s daughter, Bethany, 20, lives in Cleveland and attends Cleveland State Community College. She is studying to be a welder for her employer, Kodiak Manufacturing.
Perrin said she is getting to know all the people in the Cleveland City Schools, especially in nutrition (cafeterias). Perrin (and the nutrition department) has been working with Coordinated School Health supervisor Amy Hicks on the “Got Health?” initiative, which was launched on “World School Milk Day” recently. Mayfield Dairy of McMinn County also is participating in this systemwide project.
Perrin emphasized that this week is “National School Lunch Week” and the week’s theme has been “Let’s Grow Healthy.”
The city’s new nutrition supervisor said she and her department will work closely with Bradley County School Nutrition supervisor Emily Brown, since the two local systems are both attempting to provide healthier meals for all students in the community.
The Cleveland school system is providing more fresh fruits and vegetables at Blythe-Bower and Arnold schools, and Perrin hopes to expand these offerings at other schools in the near future.
Perrin knows Brown from her previous positions in Dayton and Hamilton County. “She’s our baby,” Perrin said of the county supervisor. “She the only nutritionist (in the 12 systems in our district) who still has young children.”
Brown said earlier in the week she is pleased with Perrin’s hire by Cleveland City Schools.