Sunday Notes December 27th 2015

Kay is anticipating a formal announcement in January detailing why he’s running, – Lowell Sun Blog Dec 22

Kamara Kay informed me after I did a post about his running against Rady Mom, that he didn’t mean to make any announcement and was just playing around on Facebook. (Lesson- If you change your FB page name, everyone who liked your page gets notified of the name change in their FB feed) and he’s supposed to be the Technology guy!

Never mind an announcement about why he’s running, he’s running a fundraiser before declaring he’s an “official” candidate or announcing the reasons he is running.

Rady worked in the Highland neighborhood for over 25 years, Kam has been back in Lowell for a year or so when he ran for School Committee. How well can his neighbors know him?

He’s just begun his race and he’s already making mistakes.

Either own up to your running after you change your page and make an official announcement before you post about a fundraiser or hold off on the fundraiser until you make your candidacy official.

Yanking around the Sun and other media outlets by playing the awe shucks I WASNT READY TO ANNOUNCE game,then advertising a fundraiser calls into question whether people should believe anything you say.

Does Lowell really need a full-time Auditor?

If Bob Healy can supposedly do everything a full-time Auditor gets paid to do in part-time hours, Why does Lowell need a full-time Auditor? Healy supposedly is limited in his earnings because of his very high retirement from Cambridge plus he collects a stipend for being on a retirement board ( or has he given that up?) So if all the work is actually getting done, shouldn’t the job which the City Council has been unable to fill be made part-time and then maybe the City could find qualified, retired people to do a job share?

It appears by the willingness of this past City Council to keep the office vacant or filled with a temp, the position needs to be reviewed and changed to part-time if Healy and company have proved that is all it takes. How many hours does Healy work and how many Free hours is he giving the city? Does that violate any other employee contracts? Having someone basically working for free?

If I’m on the Lowell School Committee or the new Supt. I’d want a huge reduction in the $208,416 chargeback the city takes, since they appear to be able to do the job of the Auditor with a part timer in place.

Keep your Eye on the Budget, Chargebacks and State audits!

Parents, Teachers and taxpayers need to watch closely the School Committee, School Administration and City Manager’s office especially during the next 6 months. Keep an eye on State Audits of School programs as well.

With a Supt. that has no political support, a new CFO with no experience in Massachusetts Public School Finances, no City Auditor in place, a projected budget deficit before any UTL contract is signed, a new food service contract needed and projected cuts, parents will need to stay informed and be active in advocating for their students.


Following up on C.E.P and getting answers to some questions on food service!

Since before I was a kid and straight through today, many have ALWAYS complained about School Lunches. I was 1 of 11 kids so I appreciated the variety we got at lunch time, even the sloppy joe’s and pizza were decent back in the 1970’s but we never got the advertised Special that you see above.

I had the chance last Tuesday to visit some schools and see first hand the Breakfast and Lunch programs and to ask some questions that I have seen on various forums and been asked directly to inquire about. I also found out some information I thought was worth sharing.

Today there are many more strict Federal guidelines that have to be followed for meals in public schools but it is still volume cooking. ARAMARK must follow specific guidelines set by the FDA in regards to calories per meal, sugar , grains and every menu must be approved by the Feds and DESE.

All School Food Service depts. are subject to yearly audits and inspections by the City, State and Federal regulators. In fact the City takes a chargeback of $269,647 for Public Safety (Police, Fire, Health, Food Service, Building) Inspections in the Lowell Schools.

I think some parents forget that this is institutional food, served in large volumes and not your Mom’s kitchen and homemade dishes and forget that sometimes your kid doesn’t like what you make. They also forget that they sometimes make a mistake and mess up a meal but expect perfection that is unrealistic.

While some would like to see more food from scratch or 100% organic or just nothing but granola and salads, financially it is not feasible and it is also unrealistic.

The job of every food service department is to get students to eat. If ARAMARK tried to offer just fruits, yogurt and whole grain granola bars the majority of students would not eat. The idea is to offer food the kids will eat, not force feed them. You will also NEVER please every student, let alone please every parent.

Everything is whole grain, no white bread. Fresh fruit is served regularly, Milk is NOT a required meal item. Even the POP Tarts that are served are whole grain not the kind you buy at Market Basket.

Lowell was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars when they tried to run the food service in-house and didn’t offer anywhere near what is offered now. This year with the addition of C.E.P. Lowell will receive close to $1,000,000 (1 million) dollars in reimbursements from the ARAMARK contract and C.E.P. while ARAMARK with the increase in breakfast and lunches sold will make around $330,000-$340,000 (approx. a 9% increase). For those wondering, Lowell by contract is guaranteed a specific amount and based on volume sold, is how ARAMARK makes a profit.

Has a parent of kids who have been in the Lowell School System since 1990 (15 years) and one who still has a Freshman at LHS I’ve seen and heard first hand about school lunches over a long period of time. I think from talking with ARAMARK, that the current vendor is trying and willing to listen and make corrections and improvements. Principals and the LHS Headmaster I spoke with seemed to agree.

They are not nor do they claim to be perfect! However they do appear willing to listen and to try to make changes and improvements.

Here are some questions and answers I got last Tuesday during my visit.

Does Aramark really serve Chocolate Chip Cookies for breakfast?

• We do not serve chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. We do however serve Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars and Whole Grain Chocolate Chip and Banana Chocolate Benefit Bars. Both items are commonly used on our Breakfast Carts and in our Breakfast in the Classroom programs and are a student favorite among many other districts in the state.

Do you serve Chicken wings,breast or legs that need to be fully cooked here in Lowell Schools?

• We serve a variety of types of chicken on our menu; chicken tenders, patties, nuggets, popcorn chicken, grilled chicken breast, whole oven roasted chicken. All of our chicken is pre-cooked and the majority comes from Tyson. All of our breaded chicken is whole grain. All proteins are temped before, during and after service to ensure 100% food safety compliance. Food safety is our #1 priority

Has Aramark added workers due to the increase in volume and have they adjusted the amount prepared so they don¹t run out?

·We have added labor in programs that required additional labor such as breakfast in the classroom or breakfast carts. We have also invested in equipment to handle the increase in meals. We work closely with our LPS food service teams in the schools to adjust labor schedules and production to ensure we do not run out of food.

What time is breakfast served at LHS and why are some students claiming they get tardy slips because of long lines for breakfast?

·Breakfast starts at 6:30 and ends at 8:00. We have monitored the lines and made adjustments to the flow on one of the carts and eliminated the line for breakfast.

I pushed heavily for the C.E.P program because Lowell had so many families that already qualified for Free or reduced that I wanted to try and help those borderline working families that could use a break but because of guidelines missed out. So I asked for some numbers to see how that is going.

Now that we are involved in CEP, how many more lunches / breakfast are we serving?

· On average we are serving 650 more breakfast and 840 lunches per day throughout the district or 8-9% lift in sales.

Lowell School Lunch Chart.jpg

What are the requirements that must be met to qualify has a full breakfast or lunch?

· Attached are the required guidelines for meals!
Meal Regs

Whar are Government Commodity Entitlement Dollars and how are they spent?

•Every March the USDA allocates a certain amount of commodity dollars to the LPS food service department; SY1516 there was $511,000 dollars with $50,000 specifically being for fresh produce. The USDA dollars are divided among different vendors to order bulk products at a lower-cost special rate. This helps increase food safety by eliminating the handling of raw product in school foodservice operations. The Food service department ( ARAMARK) decides what items to allocate dollars based on menu pattern. Aramark manages the allocation on the districts behalf and the savings are reflected in food costs commodity dollars does not impact ARAMARK

Does the school dept or Aramark get the full reimbursement from C.E.P or is it split somehow?
· The School lunch account receives the full reimbursement rate for all meals and that does not impact ARAMARK.