By Tammy Moore Teague
The third time was not the charm as the Mansfield School board voted to ax the motion for the K-12 Culinary Connection contract. The contract, which was recommended by Superintendent Robert Ross, would have changed up the food service division at the school and promised different menu options.
The board was split on the decision, with a 2/2 vote. Board President, Rick Nicodemus, was absent from the meeting. Those voting for the measure were Mark Barton, and Trent Hayslip. Those voting against were Mike Gipson and Dwayne Ward. “We have confidence in our cooks,” remarked Gipson.
It is unclear how the district will proceed with matter. Ross informed the board that regardless of how they voted he intended to call in the state to help with cost cutting ideas. Things like utilizing bulk ketchup and mustard containers instead of the costly packets option.
Additionally, the board discussed the recent interest in schools like Hackett who are giving free lunches to every student –see related story–. Ross explained to the board that participating in the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, would place the school in further financial strain. “I’ve had parents asking me about it, why aren’t we looking into it,” asked Ward.
With school enrollment down from 972 to 750 and only 50 percent of the students eating lunch at the school, the board is faced with future decisions about the food service program. “Unless we had 90 percent free/reduced lunches, we would loose money,” Ross stated. “It wouldn’t be financial prudent or feasible and a move like that could send the school into fiscal distress.”
The consulting company K-12 Culinary Connection is based out of Magnolia, Arkansas. They work with school districts to improve their food service program. They boast raving reviews from school who have implored their services. “Our goal is to increase participation, serve quality meals to students and for our services to pay for themselves,” said Chef Justin Mills.
The proof has been in the pudding as all the districts they have served are operating in the black. Because of quality and taste, students who once brought their lunch, now want to eat at the school. “It’s better quality and it’s eye appealing food,” said Mills.
The superintendent stated he will continue to work with the head of the food services division, Sonia Norris, on these pressing issues.