Board Meeting Recap 4.28.15
After beginning a study in January to investigate whether outsourcing food service management services could be a viable option to improve the District’s dwindling participation rates and decrease food waste, the School Board voted 3-1 in favor of Superintendent Puletti’s recommendation to enter into a contract with Sodexo to provide food service management for the District for the 2015/16 school year before a standing-room-only crowd at tonight’s board meeting. Vice Chair Sally Berg, Member Jon Basquin, and I voted in favor. Rev. Dwayne Brown opposed.
Following is my official statement regarding my decision-making process and vote:
“I’d like to thank the food service employees for their invitation to board members to dine in the school cafeterias at our last meeting. I visited all ten cafeterias in the district. I stood in line with students. I ate what students on Free/Reduced lunch are served. I spoke with students about their favorite and least favorite aspects of dining in their school’s cafeteria. I sought out students who have attended school outside Hendry County and asked them to compare and contrast their dining experiences here and at former school districts.
Before dining in the cafeterias, I read through the four professional management proposals submitted to the board, in addition to speaking with people I consider to be experienced and independent experts in the areas of school and community wellness. That gave me a reference point for general expectations and a clear idea of the basic standards I needed to see in order to feel there was a fighting chance of providing comparable services through the district to students on the first day on school this coming fall.
I was served molded food in one cafeteria. I waited nine minutes for a tray in another cafeteria. I was met with empty trays on the serving line in another school. I saw the majority of cafeterias selling snacks that I know fall outside of the federally mandated school nutrition guidelines. These are all areas, that even with my less-than-expert knowledge of food service, are screaming for immediate improvement and change.
I believe the single most important factor in being able to avoid outsourcing would involve buy-in and cooperation from HESPA. The patterns exhibited by HESPA since the process this study began in January do not lead me to feel comfortable counting on any level of cooperation as the organization has chosen to defend status quo, disseminate misleading information, and publicly disparage district employees who are private citizens instead of being proactive in producing a plan for improvement.
I do not believe it’s a wise use of district resources and time to attempt to “recreate the wheel” over the course of the next couple of years when we have four qualified companies who have the resources to empower our current food service employees to achieve district objectives of significantly increasing student participation and improving the student dining experience beginning this fall. I feel comfortable with the District’s strategies for oversight and enforcement of a contract with a professional management company, as well as the language which provides the District with an exit strategy from outsourced management with or without cause.”
In other news, School Calendar #2 (Page 18 of the Board Packet) was unanimously approved by the Board. Calendar 2 received an overwhelming amount of votes from HCEA members. The first day of school for 2015/16 will be August 10. You can find the calendar on page 18 of the board packet. Here is a link: http://www.hendry-schools.org/education/components/docmgr/default.php?sectiondetailid=15274&fileitem=8615&catfilter=1177
Thank you again for the privilege of serving as your school board member!