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Cafeteria Services to be Outsourced

Farmington Board of Education voted Wednesday morning after 1 a.m. to contract with Chartwells.

After two meetings and 12 hours of deliberations, the Farmington Board of Education voted to outsource the district's cafeteria services to Chartwells after 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Board member Jon Landry made the motion, with a unanimous second by the Board of Education, to enter into a contract with Chartwell's Dining Service for food service management in the district, effective July 1, 2012 for the 2012-2013 year.

Board members painstakingly weighed every aspect of the district's three options: to contract with Chartwells, Whitsons or to look for an internal way to stop the cafeterias' annual losses of approximately $55,000. Their concern was for bringing higher quality food to students, protecting the jobs of the district's current cafeteria workers and reversing the deficit, Board Chairman Mary Grace Reed explained.

Of the two companies, the board felt more comfortable with the benefits offered by Chartwells, board member Bill Beckert said after the vote. Members indicated that all Farmington cafeteria employees who want a job with Chartwells will be offered one.

But salaries and benefits may not be the same.

The approved motion states that the Board of Education will contribute a one-time insurance payment for all Farmington employees transitioning to Chartwells who currently receive benefits, up to $750 for an individual, $1,200 for a couple or $2,500 for a family.

The payment for employee premium cost share, is intended to offset some of the difference in pay and insurance benefits in the switch.

"Some employees will see an increase in pay with unemployment benefits and some will see a decrease. It's toward the end of the school year and we're mindful of that. With the insurance payment, we're trying to mitigate the difference," Beckert said.

With Chartwells, employees would receive unemployment for more than a three-day period without work, including vacations. That might give some employees a slight increase in pay. Superintendent Kathleen Greider called the pay rates "competitive wages," though some employees will likely earn less.

The meeting began at 7 p.m. with about two dozen cafeteria workers filling the Farmington High School library for just moments before being ushered out into the hallway so the board could discuss the options in executive sesion.

By 1 a.m., when the board returned to open session, just a handful of women remained. They had passed the time in the hall, reminiscing about their years working together in the cafeteria and might bring.

As they headed to their cars and home to try to sleep, the women seemed relieved to know the fate of the district but still uncertain about their own.

A few "crucial negotiation points" must be agreed upon between Chartwells and the Board of Education but Reed said Chartwells agreed to respond on those items by Wednesday morning. The company agreed to contact all employees immediately and to meet with them no later than Friday.

"This decision does not come lightly," Greider said. "After two years of deficits, we have tried different strategies around increasing revenues and they havent worked out."

Chartwells promises fresh food, made in-district, and boasts of menus designed by registered dieticians and professional chefs.

pat cocivera July 12, 2012 at 12:36 PM
I don't know if they put this out to bid but there are many other food service companies out there who do a really good job. Are they using the towns equipment or bringing in their own. Who handles the maintenance of the equipment. Are food preparers coming from our town or is it open to anyone who can get there on time?
pat cocivera July 12, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Dear Ms Dawn. Pulling my kids out of public school was a hard decision. But I saw classes that were getting larger, programs being cut or minimized and there were teachers who no longer should have been teaching. I am not one to judge but I wanted more for my children and though a hardship decided private school was the way to go where I had more of a say in my child's education. I wanted them them to get the best opportunities and not to be one of three hundred. My youngest son just graduated from a private boarding school and is on his way to college and I can say that I made the best decision for all of us.
Delta Dawn July 12, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I sincerely appreciate your response, Pat. I believe the plumbing "extras" were installed to save water as in airports, restaurants, etc. which are typically used these "greener days.". I did not realize the upper elementary school is commonly known as the Taj Mahal. I do know Jean Barron personally, and know she sat on the board and was instrumental in West Woods. I have a great deal of respect for Jean and believe she and her fellow board members are quite capable and have dedicated countless hours to the formation of West Woods. I am saddened that you had a negative experience there. Once again, a truly sincere thank you for your input. Have a great day.
pat cocivera July 12, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Dear Dawn Jean had my daughter as one of her students. I'm sure they did put a lot of thought into it but so many people had objections and many felt the money could have been better spent and I think the town should have had more input from its citizens. I know that we attended a few meetings. But we still live here and regardless of town government we love it here. thanks pat c
Dawn July 12, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Thanks again for your comments. We elect the board members because we believe they are capable of making the best decisions for us. I understand some people were upset, but I hate to say this, but I believe they should have run for the board of Ed if they feel they could do a better job. I love it here as well. Thanks for your honesty.

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