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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.

Ann C. Jett June 27, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Just wanted to thank all the cafeteria ladies, especially those at Noah Wallace - Mrs. Antigiovanni, Mrs. Chasse and Mrs. Holmes, for all they have done for our kids. Personally, I wish you all good things and hope everything works out for the best with the implementation of Chartwells.
Janet Colturi June 27, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Having had the experience of having a job with a company that was purchased, I can bet that the pay won't be the same and the insurance will be higher. Hopefully, the current employees won't be hurt too badly.
stephanie smith June 27, 2012 at 03:59 PM
They just try to make it sound so perfect. The BOE does their song and dance to get the budget passed and then sweeps the wonderful cafeteria staff under the rug when nobody is looking. Shame on them.
pat cocivera June 27, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Having personal knowledge about Chartwells down the line remember Farmington you get what you pay for.. Oh I mean what the taxpayers pay for.
Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) June 27, 2012 at 07:56 PM
One incredibly interesting note - while the lunch ladies and I were sitting in the hall, they were asking the Chartwells rep about the coming implementation of the new school lunch regulations - more fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced salt, no fryolators... and one of the women said, "so whether they hire a vendor or not, everything is going to change."
Andy & Jean Baron June 27, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I know each one of the BOE members personally, and sat at that table for many years myself. There is no doubt in mind that the decision to outsource was hard to make, look at the time they spent discussing how to fix the problem. The deficit had to be addressed, and they tried many other options before coming to this decision. Keeping the people that have worked with our children, was an obvious priority. Let's give the BOE a break, and thank them for the volunteer work they do, to make sure our children receive everything they need. Jean Baron
Susan Copley June 28, 2012 at 12:58 AM
The school system has an obligation to educate the children and to be fiscally responsible. They do not have an obligation to be an employment agency. A contractor will pay the going-rate for laborers of this skill-level. I applaud the BOE for looking at this as a dollars-and-cents decision. Unfortunate for those that will lose benefits and / or take a pay cut but, again, the town’s responsibility is to spend tax dollars effectively.
Erika Landry June 28, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Thank you, Jean.
Tom June 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Susan, I am pretty sure your response would be different if you worked in the cafeteria, supporting your children as a single parent, and taking care of the health benefits......but it's not you.....so who cares right? The BOE has a moral obligation as well. Money is really not everything in life you know.
Ann C. Jett June 28, 2012 at 12:41 PM
You are right Jean. The BOE had a very difficult time with this decision. And Ms. Copley, they, like Mrs. Greider, did struggle with it. It was not all dollars and cents to them. They live in this community and their children go to these schools. They have more than pecuniary interest. They know many of these ladies as well. I agree they have a rathe unenviable job at time and do their best to reach outcomes which are in the best interest of the town.
Hostess Twinkie June 29, 2012 at 01:47 PM
HELLO, are we forgetting something here? Thank you to all 33 cafateria workers, some who have been feeding your children for well over 25years! Whats going on in the world today, loyality, dedication,service, compasion, means nothing anymore, lets just through everbody under the Bus, just make sure its not a YELLOW bus.Listen the economy is bad we all know this, and we appreciated what the BOE, is doing but i think they could have done more. STOP THE WAR ON WORKERS,
Saul Freedman June 29, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Tom, the Board of Ed is not a charity or employment agency.
Paul Chotkowski June 30, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Mr. Freedman a rare point of agreement. The purpose of the BOE run cafeterias are to provide a self-sustaining on-campus opportunity for the majority of students to purchase food that they will actually eat at a price that their parents can afford. The mission is NOT to administer federal food and nutrition policies, NOT to provide a vehicle for BOE mandated charity in the form of ongoing subsidies for food for the needy of the district or the dietary preference of those able to pay, NOT to be a jobs program, or NOT to provide another opportunity for Progressives / Socialists to “engineer” citizens into compliant drones who look to government elites to tell them what, when and how much to eat and feed their children? Look to the City of Sandy Springs in GA for the model of privatization of municipal service. This is a good start but only a start! Tom NO LAST NAME consider demonstrating the courage of your convictions by using your full name. I would be most interested in your view of the BOE’s “Moral Obligation”? Your wants become my obligation to pay? The fact that the BOE could not run its cafeterias at breakeven was the issue. The BOE was under “Moral Obligation” to the taxpayers of the town to fix that FAILURE [as a condition of keeping their jobs come elections]! The BOE could not bring itself to fix its management FAILURE without voting a guilt payment! Do your job and don’t force me to pay to assuage your guilt over your management failure.
Dawn Smart July 09, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Thank u Jean, Erika and Susan for your intelligent comments! To the gentleman who complained that some choose not to post their full names; can u really blame them? People like you make negative comments and make yourselves look like fools and throw yourselves under the bus frequently.
pat cocivera July 09, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Chartwells is in the business to make money i.e. profit. In the long run its going to cost the taxpayers more money, it always does. Its a lose, lose for Farmington.
Charlize Theron July 10, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Really? Losses of 110,000 and u really want to make that last comment?
Delta Dawn July 11, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Just curious....Pat do u or did u have kids who attend(Ed) Fatmington Schools?
pat cocivera July 11, 2012 at 07:07 PM
My oldest daughter and son attended Farmington High....My youngest two went up to the 5th grade and then we pulled them out to send them to private schools. We were not impressed with the 27 million dollar Taj Mahal and the way the school was run. Also we own our own business working with school lunch systems. As a resident of Farmington for over 25 years we have approached the Farmington school system numerous times and were willing to give them a good deal and we could not even get an appointment with the powers that be....no bids were ever put out. We have serviced16 other school systems in Connecticut for MANY years. We are very well acquainted with Chartwells.
Paul Chotkowski July 11, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Did someone no get a trophy today? Did someone challenge your version of the truth or of fairness or of unicorns and rainbows or a Progressive / Socialist Utopia with logic, reason, history, and observable facts? Ms Smart your reasoning is impeccable, my comments make me look like a fool, as I throw myself under the bus, so posters don't have to use their full names nor address the main issue of the comment. OMG. Fact: The BOE failed to administer the District's cafeterias without loosing money for the last two years. Lets not talk about the facts rather lets talk about how the fact make us feel [like we have no control over our emotions or behavior]. Lets not talk about the absurdity of a system that coerces taxpayers into charity in the name of "feeding the children" or covering up miss-management in the name of "its too hard to follow all the rules / regulations and actually break even while doing it. lets talk about compassion. Concerning blame, courage is as courage does, I simply point out the cowardice of posting without one's real full name as required by the Farmington Patch terms of use.
Bill Stanford July 11, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I don't know all of the BOE members, but the ones I do know work hard (for no pay) to help our schools succeed with the resources available. Right or wrong, our BOE members did what they thought was best given the fiscal realities.
Delta Dawn July 12, 2012 at 02:48 AM
So would it be accurate to say that you are bitter? Please explain the 27 million dollar Taj Mahal? Also, you are in the business to make money also, correct? I am sure many readers would be interested in hearing from you why you were under impressed with the school system and why you chose private schools instead. Just trying to understand where u are coming from. Thanks in advance for your response.
Delta Dawn July 12, 2012 at 02:50 AM
How do you feel about Chartwells program?
Delta Dawn July 12, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Sorry, didn't realize u were the Patch "cop.". You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine. I believe you are full of yourself. Maybe a better use of your time would be volunteering to help those less fortunate than u. Good day Mr.Chotkowski.
pat cocivera July 12, 2012 at 12:24 PM
No MS Dawn not bitter in the least. The Taj Mahal was a serious waste of tax payers money. It was voted down many times before they final built it. 27 million and you get a cafetorium. Wouldn't it have been more advantageous to built a large auditorium that would fit a large group of people without setting up hundreds of chairs. And to spend the money and not have enough parking so buses have to transport people from the college to the school for any event. The main hall alone could probably fit 20 cars. Flushing your own toilet and turning the water on at the sink, such high tech for 5th and 6 graders. Over the years I have attend at least a hundred activities that my children have participated in. I have stood for 2 or 3 hours watching a play or listening to a concert at the high school. I started bringing my own chair. (Most times we did come early but anyone older than myself shouldn't have to stand.) Your welcome.
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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