Jason Schilli is used to putting a roof over people’s heads, quite literally. But when the owner and founder of Covenant Roofing heard that students who have outstanding lunch account payments with the Sherman Independent School District might not be allowed to participate in end-of-year activities, he opened his checkbook and put the missing money back in their accounts.

Schilli recently donated $8,500 to Sherman ISD, wiping out all the unmade lunch payments of an estimated 850 students throughout the district.

“I always just try to think beyond myself,” Schilli said. “I’m not here to just to make a living off of everybody else. I want to be a pillar in the community. I want to do something that goes beyond me and I want to do something that’s remembered, whether I’m still around here doing roofing or not.”

The business owner said he decided to make the donation after attending the Sherman Education Foundation’s Circle of Success Dinner in March. Schilli said he was told at the event that Sherman High School seniors with outstanding lunch account balances would not be allowed to walk across the stage during their class’ graduation ceremony and younger students, also with outstanding lunch payments, wouldn’t be able to take part in events like field trips and Field Day.

However, it turns out none of that is actually district policy.

After KXII reported it was the school district’s policy to not allow high school seniors with unpaid fees to walk across the stage, Sherman ISD Director of Communications Emily Parks said the district received criticism in online comments and initiated an internal review of its policies. Parks said, to her and other administrators’ knowledge, Sherman ISD has never had such such a policy nor has such a practice ever been enforced.

Schilli said he could not remember who told him about the nonexistent policy and despite being “misinformed,” the finding did not at all change how he felt about his donation.

“At the end of the day, the check would have been written regardless of the circumstances,” Schilli said. “I was just looking for a way to be unique and different. I wanted my money to be able to directly impact the kids.”

Parks said confusion around the outstanding payments may have stemmed from the fact that the district allows students to pay their bills at graduation but explained students with unmade payments are not barred from instructional, academic activities. She said Sherman ISD has an interest in ensuring that fees are paid, but the district is willing to work with qualifying families by setting up payment plans and, in some cases, even waiving fees.

Schilli was recognized as a “Community Partner” by the Sherman ISD’s board of trustees at the group’s monthly meeting on May 15. And in an emailed statement, Parks said the district is grateful for Schilli’s donation.

“Mr. Schilli has set an excellent example of what Building Bearcats means,” Parks said, referring to the district’s educational theme for the year. “He has done something to help our students and our district and we applaud his commitment to this community and his support of our schools.”