Food service study may be put on ice

Efficiency study likely to be rejected by board, Feb. 22

By Mike McGann, Editor,

A proposed study that could lead to privatizing school lunches appears likely to rejected by the Board of Education on Feb. 22

EAST MARLBOROUGH — It looks like the efforts to privatize the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District food service may be as frozen as a decade-old Salisbury steak.

While the Board of Education must vote Tuesday night on whether to award a contract after a formal request for proposal for outside firms to look at the food service operation — and to offer opinions as to whether savings might be found by privatizing the operation — it seemed pretty clear during Monday night’s work session that there are enough board votes to support going forward.

While similar efforts regarding the school’s busing, janitorial and landscaping operations are continuing, the food service study appears to be getting derailed for one reason: the operation doesn’t cost the district anything and there appears to be a general sense of satisfaction with its operation and the management of Marie Wickersham, Director of Food Service.

“The one thing about this that sparked comment is that food service customers are very pleased with Marie and her food service department,” board president Timotha Trigg said at Monday’s board work session. “I think that parents would react to this as if we spent taxpayer money to tell them where to buy groceries.”

Those still supporting the idea suggested that it was important to look for ways to save money in the food service operation, even if everyone is pleased with the way it is currently running.

“I think it’s critical to look at efficiency,” board member Jeff Hellrung said. “If only in the name of fiduciary responsibility, we have to look at whether we’re running things as well as we can. I think our people generally do a wonderful job, but it’s not our job to be cheerleaders.”

Other members made it clear that they think this is one area where the district should be teaching, not studying.

“If there’s going to be a study — Marie can teach the other districts,” board member Holly Manzone said. “We need to save the time and effort of our staff on this, they’ve got enough to deal with right now.”

“It’s a matter of due diligence,” Board Finance Chair Keith Knauss said. “We started it. If we don’t do it now, it’s not likely we’ll do it again in 20 years.”

The board will vote on the approval of contract and then, if rejected, whether to reject all of the proposals.

In other school board news, Corrine Sweeney formally announced that she would not stand for reelection after three terms on the school board.

“It’s time for me to let others take over,” she said. She spent a few moments musing about her term on the board, and pulled out some of her original campaign literature from her first race in 1992. Her colleagues offered her a round of applause.

“I think I can say on behalf of this board, ‘thank you for you service’ “ Trigg said.

With Sweeney not running, it means that there will be a new board member from region A, which is East Marlborough and West Marlborough. Eileen Bushelow has not formally declared for reelection — and board sources say she is leaning against running for reelection, which could mean an opening in Region B, which covers Newlin, Pocopson and Birmingham. Frank Murphy, Timotha Trigg and Paul Price are all seeking reelection from Region C, which represents Chadds Ford and Pennsbury. As candidates formally declare, The Unionville Times will publish any statements from the candidates.

The petition season opened on Feb. 15 and runs through March 8. Would-be candidates for school board or township supervisor need to collect a minimum of 10 signatures of registered voters. In addition to school board and local municipal races, two county commissioner slots and various county row offices will be elected this November.

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