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Baldwin-Whitehall board extends Aramark food pact, lays off 5

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Baldwin-Whitehall school board laid off five cafeteria managers last week after extending Aramark's food-service contract for a year.

The district will receive $103,779 from the company at the end of the 2010-11 school year, for allowing the company to run its food-service department. The main stipulation was that Aramark could hire its own managers.

The laid off managers are welcome to apply for three open Aramark positions.

The district's cafeteria fund -- which started bleeding money as early as 2004 -- has a $1.1 million deficit. The deficit grew by $54,000 during the 2009-10 school year.

"This has been an extremely hard decision for me," said board President George Pry.

Isabel Baumgart, Darlene Gilchrist, Nadine Engelhardt, Barbara Weiss and Judy Bourne pleaded with the board to keep their jobs. About two dozen food-service employees were on hand to support them.

The women found out they were losing their jobs June 14. The managers' salaries and benefits cost the district $215,000 last school year.

"We'd be willing to contribute more to our insurance and take a wage freeze," Bourne said.

Collectively, the women have a total of 52 years of experience as cafeteria managers and 86 years as Baldwin-Whitehall School District food-service employees.

Aramark has been the district's food service provider for six years.

"When we worked under a private individual, we did a good job of trying to save money and lower prices," said Engelhardt, who worked at Whitehall Elementary for 17 years.

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