Amanda Isabelle, Superintendent
PO Box 789
Enfield, NH 03748
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 17, 2019
Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Statement of Mascoma Valley Regional School District Superintendent Amanda Isabelle Regarding Dining Services
ENFIELD, N.H. — A recent occurrence with the Mascoma Valley Regional School District’s dining services has reminded school administrators of their mission: to prepare students to become lifelong learners and responsible citizens in an ever-changing world. This situation reminds us all that we are lifelong learners.
Superintendent Amanda Isabelle has today spoken with the owners of Cafe Services, SAU 62’s Manchester-based dining vendor, regarding the employment of a part-time cafeteria worker who was terminated in March.
Cafe Services has agreed to invite the employee to return to her previous position immediately, with back pay for the time she missed.
The district will work with Cafe Services to review food services policies to ensure that they meet best practices and that there are no conflicts between district and vendors. The goal of this is to ensure that the school district, the vendor, and their employees do not face the uncertainty and allegations levied in this situation in the future.
“First and foremost, it is our goal to do right by our families, community, students and employees at the Mascoma Valley Regional School District. The events of these past few weeks and the feedback I have received from parents has given me considerable pause,” Superintendent Isabelle said. “As a school district, we understand the importance of rules and procedures, but upon reflection, I have become sufficiently convinced that it is wrong of us to assume that all the responsibility falls to the vendor, and I do not believe our communities would accept that explanation of this situation. We must be accountable for the people who work in our schools.”
There are, as there tend to be with rumors that circulate on social media, a number of inaccuracies in the reports that are circulating. The Mascoma Valley Regional School District wishes to state for the record:
- The school district serves approximately 1,200 students in four regional schools in five towns in western New Hampshire. Approximately 360 (30 percent) of its students receive free lunch.
- The school district does not refuse to provide food to a hungry child who cannot afford to pay .
- The district’s policy regarding free lunches is that students will always be provided with meals, milk, fruits and vegetables. There are, however, items such as ice cream bars, sports drinks and chips that are not provided for free. Those packaged items have a high unit cost to the district and are not viewed as essential nutrition.
- The district will ensure that all food services staff, including employees of external vendors, are properly trained on food distribution policies.
Superintendent Isabelle also understands that this situation has created a serious and worthwhile discussion about the school district’s contract with its food services vendor.
“Our contract with Cafe Services was renewed only after a review of its ability to deliver comprehensive, whole and nutritious meal plans for our students including free lunch for those who need assistance,” Superintendent Isabelle said.
Two vendors submitted bids for the district’s food service contract for the 2019-2020 school year. Cafe Services is a net-positive vendor, meaning that its contract with the district actually results in an annual profit, which goes directly into the school budget. The only other bid would have been revenue neutral in a best-case scenario.
The district has requested the right to be released from its contract with Cafe Services for next year, which would re-open the public bidding process. However, it is Superintendent Isabelle’s hope that the district, the communities and Cafe Services can move forward with these changes, and she is optimistic after Cafe Services agreed to the requests to reinstate the employee, with pay and review its policies.
“I believe we have all learned something through this process,” Superintendent Isabelle said.
Mascoma Valley Regional School District also offers a variety of programs and supports for those struggling with food security, including a food bank that operates out of the high school and a table in the high school lobby where students can take granola bars, apples and other snacks for free during the school day, no questions asked. The district also participates in the End 68 Hours of Hunger program, which supplies students in need with food for the weekend. Mascoma Valley also operates multiple locations in the summer where anyone under the age of 18 can visit and receive a free breakfast and lunch, and coordinates donations of food for students over school vacations and holidays.
Friends Feeding Friends, a program of the local charity group Friends of Mascoma, also works with the school to stock the high school food pantry and provide snacks for teachers to make available to students in their classrooms.