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USD 408 considers change that could improve lunchtime

Staff writer

USD 408 is considering outsourcing its food-service menu creation to a management company.

Superintendent Lee Leiker introduced the idea Monday to the board, which reacted favorably. He said it would improve meal quality and save money without costing the school’s food-service workers their jobs.

The main change students would notice is an uptick in variety — rather than one main entrée choice, students would have five choices at the middle and high school or three at the elementary school. All the food would also be fresh-baked, rather than pre-cooked and warmed on sight.

“Our food service workers would have to work harder,” Leiker said. “They’d have to cook.”

The cost-cutting comes from elimination of a middle man, Leiker said. The food service company deals directly with food producers, rather than going through a food ordering service, which is what the district does now.

Leiker said the district had the option of employing their current food service workers with the management company or keeping them employed with the schools. He suggested keeping them employed with the schools to provide them better benefits and more job security.

Leiker said with additional food preparation, the district may need to purchase some new kitchen equipment, but he said the majority of equipment required is already in the school kitchens.

Leiker said he spoke with two schools that have implemented food service management agencies, and both gave positive reviews.

“It’s growing — not a lot of Kansas schools do it, but I think a lot more will,” he said. “We’re kind of on the edge of the movement.”

After board clerk Kristi Mercer and Leiker researched the idea, Leiker spoke with one agency that could potentially provide services, but said he’d need to open it up for bids before choosing a specific company.

High School Principal Tod Gordon was on board with the idea.

“I eat in that cafeteria every day,” he said. “The idea of having fresh baked bread is very exciting.”

In other business:

  • An energy efficiency study revealed that USD 408 is spending $0.85 per square foot of space on energy; the state average is $1.14 per square foot. Leiker joined the board in commending the district faculty for their commitment to not wasting energy.
  • The board passed a resolution that allows Mercer, Leiker, and district employee Jordan Metro to authorize use of the district credit cards. Leiker said the district was looking into signing up for a card with cash-back benefits.
  • A draft of the 2015-16 school calendar was approved, pending negotiations. The calendar would have school starting Aug. 20, with Christmas break beginning Dec. 23 and second semester beginning Jan. 4. Spring break would be March 14-18, and school would end May 25. The schedule includes 83 school days first semester and 95 second semester. Leiker said this apparent imbalance is OK because of the increase in activities second semester.
  • Alex Case donated $800 worth of equipment to the district. Leiker said after a $400 donation to the high school weight facility, Case’s wife Nicki, a physical education teacher at the elementary school, insisted he make an equal donation she could use for her classes.
  • The district approved its five-year technology plan.
  • Principal Gordon revealed new signs that will be posted in Marion reminding drivers to buckle up and drive safe. The signs were created by MHS students, and are school colors, red and blue.

Last modified March 12, 2015

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