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Timberlane to stay with food services contractor

PLAISTOW — The Timberlane School Board has authorized Superintendent Earl Metzler to prepare a new one-year contract with Whitsons, its current food services contractor.

However, the board is expecting Metzler to come back by the end of the year with options for the district to possibly return to a self-operated food services program.

Last month, several district elementary school cafeteria managers expressed their desire to have the district move back to a self-operated food services program.

Whitsons provides the district with a manager that oversees the food services program for the entire distrct.

Pollard Elementary School cafeteria manager Deb Waters said there have been some issues with the management company, ranging from deliveries of subpar produce to Whitsons keeping tight controls on what can and cannot be served on the menu.

The board asked Metzler to look into what it would take for the district to hire its own food services manager to oversee the entire program in house.

Metzler said he met with district Business Manager George Stokinger and others about what it would take to make that a reality for the 2014-15 school year.

“It was really much more extensive than we can put together in a couple of weeks to have an exit plan and to have a business plan to go to self-operation,” said Metzler. “I’m going to recommend we renew that (Whitsons) contract for another year and take some time to look at that business plan.”

Metzler said he has confidence in the school cafeteria managers, but said there are a number of risks associated with moving quickly to a self-operated program.

Metzler also noted that Whitsons, the School Board, and the school cafeteria managers have worked together over the past year to address the revenue shortfall in the program.

School Board members agreed to the one-year extension with Whitsons, but several said they want information on a self-operated program in time to make a decision on the food services program for the 2015-16 school year.

Board member Donna Green noted the district has experienced staff that has worked in a self-operated program before, but added that she believes there are few risks with making the move.

Board member Michael Mascola said he is not satisfied with the current provider and wants the administration to come up with additional options for the future.

“We need to put a plan together and then have the job description so we can go out and hire someone to be in the seat for July 1, 2015,” said Mascola.

Metzler said he would work with Stokinger to have options before the board during one of its December meetings.

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