Nashville school district food services ‘in the black’

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    The primary school choir directed by Stacia Petty sang three Christmas songs at Monday night's meeting of the Nashville School Board. The youngsters performed last week at the Nashville Rotary Club meeting. Superintendent Doug Graham and school board members are seated behind the choir, including David Hilliard, Monica Clark, Mark Canaday, Randy Elliot, and Miles Mitchell. The meeting was held in the Nashville High School cafeteria instead of the board room because of the large number of guests who went to watch the choir.

    By John R. Schirmer
    News-Leader staff

    The Nashville School District’s food services program is operating in the black since being outsourced to Aramark for the 2016-17 academic year, according to Superintendent Doug Graham.

    Aramark and the district entered a partnership during the spring, and outsourcing began as plans for 2016-17 were made during the summer.

    Thus far, “We’re in the black $35,900. Financially, it’s working,” Graham told the school board Monday night. The food services program had operated at a loss before the contract with Aramark.

    Graham attributed the turnaround to two factors. “We’re serving more students per day, and we have Aramark’s buying power. That’s what’s turned us around financially.”

    The food services department serves about 1,400 students per day in grades K-12, according to Graham.

    “There are still some menus to work out. I’d like to see us tweak them to be more desirable” to students, Graham said.

    In other discussion at Monday’s board meeting, Graham said the building project at Nashville Primary “is at a standstill. Howard Construction is waiting on bar joists. I hope we have them this week. We’re at the mercy of the steel manufacturer.”

    The project includes two new classrooms at primary.

    The board approved a resolution authorizing the City of Nashville to access school property to construct sidewalks along Fourth Street from the administration building to high school. Construction and upkeep will be the city’s responsibility, according to the resolution.

    The board approved a minimum wage increase from $8 to $8.50 for substitutes at the bottom end of substitute pay and some bus drivers. Other classified personnel already make more than the state minimum wage and will not be affected, Graham said.

    Graham said a number of bills affecting education have already been filed in advance of the Arkansas Legislature’s regular session beginning Jan. 9. “We’ll follow them closely for their effect on the public schools.”

    One bill already drawing statewide attention would ban electronic devices on any campus during the school day, including cell phones, tablets and others. “That would be a big hurdle to jump over if it gets enough support. I don’t see it passing,” Graham said. Nashville students currently are allowed to use electronic devices in class to conduct research but must put them away all other times while in class.

    There are 19 bills which could affect teacher retirement, Graham told the board.

    Overall, “It should be an interesting year at the Capitol.”

    In a personnel matter, the board hired Cassie Reeder as a teacher’s aide at Nashville Primary. She had served as a substitute aide after Lara Dyar resigned from the position earlier in the year.

    The district’s finances remain in good shape, Graham said, with an operating balance of about $6.43 million through Nov. 30.

    Before the board took care of business items, the Nashville Primary School choir presented a short program of Christmas music. Stacia Petty is the director. The meeting was held at the Nashville High School cafeteria instead of the administration building to accommodate a large number of parents and other guests who watched the performance.

    The next meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, a day later than usual because of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 16.

    All board members were present Monday night, including David Hilliard, Monica Clark, Mark Canaday, Randy Elliott and Miles Mitchell.