HOWELL – The Howell K-8 School District Board of Education has voted to shutter the district’s 43-member food services department and hire a private firm to feed students and staff members.
On July 25, board President Tim O’Brien and board members Laurence Gurman, Denise Lowe, MaryRose Malley, Albert Miller, Jennifer Okerson, Cristy Mangano and Ira Thor voted to award a contract for the district’s food services operation to Aramark Educational Services for the 2018-19 school year.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Ronald Sanasac said there would be a $250,000 guaranteed profit by outsourcing the food service department to Aramark Education.
O’Brien said the move to privatize the school district’s food services operation began because according to state law the food services department must show an annual profit and not operate at a loss.
Sanasac spoke highly of Aramark, but acknowledged the move was made because it had to be made.
“We are making this move, we had a department that was very much the fabric of the district, but due to (state) regulations, could not make up for the regulations,” he said.
Sanasac said the financial aspect of privatization was a “considerable point.”
“In fact, the state mandates that (finances) be ranked the highest (criteria),” he said.
During the meeting, Lorraine Tesauro, a New Jersey Education Association field representative, addressed the board.
“This is a very difficult meeting for us to attend and to listen to. We understand the financial responsibilities of this board and the budget constraints I think we are all going to start to feel, a little bit more pressure, over the next couple years,” Tesauro said.
She said that after reviewing documents presented by the board, it was clear the district’s food services department “is a cost.”
“But it is a well-balanced cost because of what the end result is, serving your children,” Tesauro said.
The union representative said she understood it was a difficult decision for the board members to make.
“I am just here to reinforce the fact that we are disappointed,” Tesauro said.
She said she hoped the individuals who worked for the school district would have an opportunity to work for Aramark.
“I encourage them to apply (for a job) and I certainly encourage the individuals from Aramark to review the fact that these members and this staff are individuals who are dedicated, loyal and very conscientious employees. That is the saddest part of the decision you have made; that you are releasing 43 very loyal individuals,” Tesauro said.