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.