School food services staff responds to talk of outsourcing

By John R. Schirmer
Leader staff
The Nashville School Board continues to discuss outsourcing the district’s cafeteria program.
Under the plan, a management firm oversees the cafeteria and often hires current school employees for day-to-day operation and meal preparation.
Last month, board members heard reports from administrators who visited school which had outsourced their food services programs to management companies.
Monday night, Tina Conzel, the district’s food services director, discussed the matter with the board.
“The ladies are really concerned,” Conzel said. “We went to Lakeside and Malvern and met food services staff from the schools.”
Conzel presented pros and cons from the visits.
Lakeside offers two main menu lines, a salad bar, pizza and other items, Conzel said. “The district is larger, about 3,200 students, and has more choices. They also had fruit juices, milk, cut up fruit, cookies and chips.”
Lakeside purchases many foods instead of preparing them “from scratch,” Conzel said. The district used disposable items such as plates at high school and junior high but had regular plates at elementary.
Employee salaries are negotiable, and the district may recommend raises to the management company. Workers are played twice monthly and may draw unemployment during the summer.
There was no supervision of the salad bar, Conzel said. The “no-scratch cooking” is a concern. Some of the staff “are not really happy with [outsourcing]. They’ve lost some staff. Sick leave and retirement are a concern.”
The employees are on a 90-day probation period with the management firm after they are hired
Conzel also visited Malvern and said the district is in its first year with outsourcing. “They were struggling,” she said.
Some of the practices which concerned Conzel at Lakeside were also found at Malvern.
Conzel did not visit Magnet Cove but called the cafeteria manager. “They were more positive but said the first year was very difficult.”
After discussing the other districts, Conzel asked questions about the possible change.
“Why outsource? Magnet Cove paid $340,000 to Chartwell,” the management firm.
“Why not invest in the existing program with new equipment and other items?
“Why bring outsiders in. Why have unhappy employees serving our children? Why serve previously prepared items. What does this benefit this district?
“We have parents, grandparents and former students on our staff.”
Conzel has worked in the local district for 27 years. She said she has been president of the state School Food Services Association. “I’ve always represented the Nashville School District and our students. The past two years have been especially demanding with new state and federal regulations. I want to continue to work for our school. We know some things need changing, and we’re willing to do it,” Conzel said.
“I’d rather have our employees in food services than someone with no interest other than financial. We don’t want y’all to give up on us yet,” she said.
Superintendent Doug Graham said Conzel had “provided more information for us to give consideration to as we move forward.”
No action was taken.
The board considered other items at the March meeting.
Members heard a report on the Act 1280 requirement that next year’s ninth graders will take an online course before they graduate. More information will be provided in next week’s Leader.
The 2014-15 school calendar was approved. “It pretty well mirrors the 2013-14 calendar,” Graham said. Classes will begin Aug. 18.
Graham said that bids on the second phase of the high school renovation will be opened at 1 p.m. April 1 in the board room. “We’re anxiously awaiting the bid opening. If the bids are something we can live with, I hope we can get started in May. We should be able to get through in October or November.”
Graham said he is “hoping for around the $2.5 million mark.”
Board members accepted resignations from junior high coach and teacher Don Cooley, custodian Ruth Lively and high school special education teacher Cameron Allen.
The board transferred Coach Brian “Boomer” Brown from high school to junior high to succeed Cooley.
Brice Petty was hired as the district’s technology coordinator beginning April 1. He is currently the assistant to Gayland Hopper, who will resign effective March 31. Petty will be paid $22.99 per hour.
Other hirings include Gricelda Mays, food services; Regina Westfall, high school Spanish; Kenny Hughes, bus driver; Amy Turner, elementary teacher; and Abby Cortez, elementary teacher.

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