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Brentwood cafeteria workers safe through end of school year

| Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

The jobs of 12 Brentwood School District food service workers are safe for the remainder of this school year.

School Board members agreed unanimously at their Oct. 16 meeting to hire The Nutrition Group, based in Irwin, to take over management — pending approval from the state Department of Education — of its food services in January. The board agreed to retain its cafeteria workers.

“This motion keeps things the same,” clarified board member David Schaap, prior to the vote.

The board accepted the resignations of two cafeteria workers, Robin Shaw and Kimberly Grill.

The issue of whether to outsource district food services had been ongoing for several months and would have saved an estimated $12,000, plus health care benefits and pensions.

Superintendent Amy Burch has said the district loses money on the cafeteria mostly because of salaries and benefits. Benefits account for about $150,000.

The district, which is obligated to cover all losses, receives funding from the state, but those amounts vary. Burch said the projected loss for the cafeteria this school year was estimated at $20,000 to $25,000, but the agreement with Nutrition Group will return $1,500 of that amount.

The board and Nutrition Group will begin negotiations on a new contract in March or April for the 2018-19 school year, which could again put the jobs of the cafeteria workers in limbo.

“The proposal offered by the Nutrition Group will bring a wider variety of options to all of our students,” Burch said. “At the elementary levels, the students will be able to select from two hot entrees instead of one.”

Also, students at the middle and high schools will have options such as wraps, salads, pizzas and hoagies on a regular basis, she said.

Food preparation is done in-house at the district. Meals are cooked at the Brentwood Middle/High School and then delivered to the two elementary schools. Part of the reason the district went to outsourcing is that its food service director is retiring.

Members of the Brentwood Education Support Professionals, which includes the cafeteria workers, have picketed the district office to protest any outsourcing of jobs.

“I have lived here all of my life,” said Sandy Mackewich, who has been a Brentwood food service worker for 32 years. “I am very anxious to see what my future holds.”

During the meeting, April Piccolo, a cafeteria worker and president of the local union, presented the school board with several copies of Lunch Lady, a children's graphic book series by Jarrett Krosoczka that chronicles the adventures of a spatula-wielding crime fighter.

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at selliott@tribweb.com.

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