Mascoma Valley Regional School District Announces Completion of Administrative Review of Cafeteria Employee Situation

Mascoma Valley School District 

Amanda Isabelle, Superintendent

547 US Route 4
Enfield, NH 03748

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019

Media Contact: Kelsey Bode
Phone: 617-993-0003

Email: [email protected]

Mascoma Valley Regional School District Announces Completion of Administrative Review of Cafeteria Employee Situation

ENFIELD, N.H. — Superintendent Amanda Isabelle announces that an independent administrative review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the termination of a Cafe Services employee this spring has come to a close.

The report is being released in its entirety with only legally-mandated redactions. The report can be downloaded here.

The administrative review and report, chiefly produced by veteran law enforcement leader and criminology professor Dr. John G. Dristilaris, found that Fresh Picks Café/Café Services, the district’s food vendor, was justified in its firing of former cafeteria worker Bonnie Kimball.

The report further found evidence that multiple students may have been given free a la carte items, including sports drinks and french fries, over a period of several months, resulting in lost cafeteria revenue.

“This review was comprehensive, and provides the facts and answers the school community has called for and deserves regarding this chapter in the history of our school district,” Superintendent Isabelle said. “I am confident moving forward that Mascoma will be more proactive in sharing the many, many positive programs we have in place to support our students and community, and in strengthening communication among all stakeholders in our schools.”

The district commissioned the independent administrative review this spring in an effort  to better understand the facts and events surrounding Kimball’s termination, which resulted in local, statewide, national and international media attention drawn toward the district.

Additionally, a false narrative circulated — and became a national and international headline — that Mascoma Valley Regional School District had terminated Kimball after she allegedly gave a free lunch to a hungry child in need. Kimball’s employment was entirely under the purview of Cafe Services, not the district, and it is a school policy that all children are given lunches, regardless of their financial means to pay for that meal. The district sought to learn what, if anything, could have been done to prevent this situation from escalating the way it did in recent months.

After interviewing multiple individuals, reviewing the policies of the district and Cafe Services, analyzing documents and examining student meal account data, the report concludes that Cafe Services acted appropriately. The report also states that Cafe Services had just cause to terminate Kimball’s employment after she violated the company’s policies and procedures by giving away free food and drinks to multiple students over several months.

The review made a number of recommendations aimed at streamlining communication and the food service process and preventing the media spectacle that grew from this incident to repeat itself in the future. Those recommendations include:

  • Mascoma Valley should more clearly state, boldly, in its published policies and handbooks, that all students, regardless of their ability to pay, will receive lunch daily
  • Rewording sections of the food policy, including changing “Parents are prohibited from running a negative balance” to “The district will work proactively with parents to maintain a positive balance on their students’ meal account.”
  • Monthly meetings between the district and its food service vendor to discuss any issues that may have arisen
  • Summertime meeting between district and its food service vendor to go over expectations for the upcoming year and discuss any suggested ways of improvement
  • Place a copy of the district’s meal charging policy as an exhibit in all future food service contracts
  • The district should require its food service vendor to clearly state in its employee handbook the expectations regarding feeding all students a school meal (except a la carte items) regardless of student account balances, along with a sign off acknowledgement from employees of the vendor
  • More closely follow New Hampshire School Boards Association (NHSBA) recommendations regarding meal charging
  • The district should conduct a student meal account audit for 2018-19 to determine possible loss revenue

“This incident greatly impacted our community, and it is a relief to have completed this review and share this report with all of the stakeholders who were impacted,” Superintendent Isabelle said. “The overall well-being and health of our students is of the greatest importance at Mascoma Valley Regional School District, and we will continue working to improve our policies and communication to reflect that dedication to our community moving forward.”

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