Cafeteria manager Rhonda Curlee knows every student by name 

Published 5:24 am Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Rhonda Curlee is held in high regard at LeBleu Settlement Elementary School, and for good reason. A young 20-something who has never forgotten Curlee’s engaging way with students and delicious meals recommended her for “Cook of the Week.”

“She was a staple of my childhood,” the young woman said. “She was so committed to making sure we got a good lunch.”

When the LeBleu Settlement principal found out Curlee was going to be named the American Press “Cook of the Week,” she knew she had to pitch in with her own praise.

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“There are not enough words to express how deserving she is of this recognition,” Principal Melanie Brady said. “There is something special about a person who not only knows every student by name, but also their parents and grandparents. Little faces light up when she mentions their families.”

The wife, mother of two and grandmother of four likely fed some of those family members. Curlee will be employed for 30 years with CPSB in February. She has lived in LeBleu Settlement for 40 years.

“I was a Cafe Tech for 10 years at JI Watson Elementary before becoming a manager here at LeBleu Settlement in 2002,” Curlee said. My manager at JI Watson insisted I transfer here because I live in LeBleu Settlement, about two miles away.”

She was hesitant to make the move, but after she did, she has never regretted the decision.

Curlee is a worker, extraordinaire and claims she is “blessed” (plus four exclamation points) with a fantastic crew of four. Work begins at 5 a.m. For 18 years she worked in the cafeteria, and also for the after-school daycare program as a daycare worker and as the bookkeeper. As an avid “sports mom,” she had many days of getting in from “work” to cook supper for family. Then it was homework, then off to practices or games.

“I had some really long days,” she said.

She started cooking when she was in high school, working at Mama’s Fried Chicken #1 on Broad St. back in the ‘70s.

“My mom was the manager and I worked there for many years,” she said.

She still enjoys cooking after all these years and like all those who enjoy being in the kitchen, she will never tire of positive feedback.

“I always know when they really enjoy our meal,” she said. It’s when they line up for any leftovers.”

Students’ favorites are gumbo; meatballs, rice and gravy; cheeseburgers with french fries and pizza. The cafeteria is decorated for holidays and the students show their appreciation with the looks on their faces, which Curlee describes as “priceless.”

“When I see students who have moved on to middle school, I always ask them, ’How’s the food over there?’ They always say, Oh, not as good as your cooking at LeBleu. That always makes me so happy,” she said.

Brady said Curlee is “a blessing to all hearts of LeBleu Settlement Elementary as an exemplary model of servitude as our cafeteria staff not only serves food, but love which is felt by all. EVery school needs a Ms. Ronda Curlee.”

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