Niles school board OKs food service contract

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Niles Community Schools Board of Education unanimously voted for the total privatization of the school district's food service program at Monday's board meeting.
Doug Law, school district superintendent, said the district expects to save between $150,000 and $177,000 each year on its new food service program, which in its current state has lost money for the school district over the last three years.
He said the school district currently is spending $150,000 a year to support its food service program.
Based on evaluations of four different state-approved food service operations, Law said the school board chose Chartwells School Dining Services based on their presentation of an aggressive business plan.
Chartwells is proposing J.J. Merimonti, a former Niles High School graduate with a BS in Food Service Management from Ferris State University as the manager of the school district's food service program.
Merimonti also has four years of experience managing a food service program for Chartwells, as well as 10 years of restaurant management experience.
The three other companies who submitted bids, but who were not approved, were Sodexho School Services, Taher School Lunch Management Services and Aramark Corp.
As a result of the school district's decision to privatize its food service program, 36 current food service employees will lose their job. However, they will be provided an opportunity to interview for jobs with Chartwells.
The 36 jobs are both part- and full-time positions.
In addition, the school district has halted the hiring of all support personnel positions in order to give food service workers the opportunity to apply for those positions.
The school district can't guarantee that its present food service workers will be offered jobs, but will give them the opportunity to be considered for employment, Law said.
Three employees have already notified the school district they will be retiring at the end of the year.
Christine Fahl, Local 517 Labor Relations Specialist, who has represented the food service workers in their effort to convince the school board to let them continue running the food service program, was together with the unionized workers, disappointed after the school board's decision Monday.
Fahl also said she is surprised the school board voted for total privatization.
Fahl didn't speak on behalf of the employees Monday because she had been informed previous to the meeting the board's decision was already made.
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