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Finances improve for Nashville district food services

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

Through the first six months of the 2016-17 academic year, the Nashville School District’s food services program shows a profit of $75,628, according to Robert Ginder, Arkansas manager for Aramark.

The district outsourced food services to Aramark for the current academic year in hopes of improving the program’s financial situation.

“So far, the statistics speak for themselves. The number of meals per day is up. We’re operating in the black,” Superintendent Doug Graham told the school board Monday night.

After 116 service days, cafeterias on the Nashville campuses had served 266,741 meals, an average of 2,205 per service day, Ginder said.

Cash sales, reimbursements and other sales amounted to about $748,400. Revenue per meal was $2.93, with revenue per day set at $6,452, Ginder said.
Program costs included $710,800 meal rate billings to Aramark, less commodity credit of $38,000, leaving net billings of $672,769 and a cost per meal of $2.63.

The profit figure does not included local expenses, Ginder said.

Student breakfast participation is 23 percent at primary, 32 percent at elementary, 24 percent at junior high and 15 percent at high school. Lunch participation includes 75 percent at primary, 76 percent at elementary, 74 percent at junior high and 68 percent at high school, according to Ginder.

Teacher and administration meal sales have increased, with the largest growth at high school, Ginder said.

Aramark will work with the district to increase breakfast participation, Ginder said.

Schools will try to find ways to collect unpaid account balances. As of Monday, the food services program had $2,780 in unpaid charges. That is below previous years but is “a concern that’s out there,” Ginder said.

“This isn’t unique to Nashville. It goes on nationwide,” Graham said, and the percentage of unpaid bills compared to the food services budget is small, less than half of one percent. Students who have exceeded their allowed charges are not turned away at lunchtime, Graham said. “They receive a grilled cheese sandwich, vegetable, fruit and milk.”

In other discussion Monday night, Nashville Elementary Principal Latito Williams and NJHS Principal Deb Tackett reviewed awards which the schools have received for their scores on the 2016 ACT Aspire test required by the state.

The awards came from the Office of Educational Performance at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Tackett said all campuses in the district were involved in junior high’s success. “You don’t get to this place without a good foundation. Primary and Elementary do a great job. We try to go a step higher at junior high and prepare our kids for high school. It’s a team effort.”

Williams said recognition is based on the school gradepoint average compiled by OEP.

“It takes all kids into account.”

Both junior high and elementary were recognized with Beating the Odds awards for schools with at least 66 percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunches. They also received OEP honors for their performance among all schools in the state regardless of economic factors.

Elementary was ranked fifth overall in the southwest region as an overall high-achieving school and fifth in the southwest region in math.

Junior high received an overall award for the southwest region, along with math, English/Language Arts and science.

NJHS was second in the region and 22nd among about 300 junior high schools in the state.

In the Beating the Odds recognition, elementary was third in the southwest region in math and fourth in science.

Junior high was fifth overall, fourth in math, fifth in E/LA and eighth in science in the region. “I’m proud of our teachers and students,” Tackett said.

Graham said the district is pleased with the Beating the Odds awards and the overall awards. “We’re happy to accept the Beating the Odds recognition, and competing with every school in the state is a real feather in our cap that we’re so proud of this year. Great job elementary and junior high.”

Board members discussed a sick leave days policy for 2017-18. Graham said that he is looking at a policy allowing faculty and staff to donate one or two sick leave days to employees faced with a “catastrophic event” which uses up all of their sick days.

Employees would have the option of donating a day or two for a specific need. “There’s no pressure to donate. The list of donors would be private,” Graham said.

“This is the first step. We could expand it to a bank if we need to,” according to Graham.

Graham will submit a policy to the board for approval at the April 17 meeting.

He will also have a proposal for a policy to deal with meal charges.

Graham reviewed recent legislative actions related to education. One proposal from Rep. Mark Lowery has failed in two votes but may be brought back. It would call for schools to start after Labor Day and end by Memorial Day.

Another Lowery proposal would require schools to have no more than 20 percent of their revenue in savings. “We’ve been holding at 25 percent. We would need to spend the other five percent. The bill doesn’t scare me. We may need to go on and figure it,” Graham said.

The board accepted resignations from high school business teacher Stephanie Davis and elementary teacher Allison Dixon.

Graham said the district will need to hire two teachers at elementary based on numbers of students alone, along with a replacement for Dixon. There are no openings at primary at present. High school will need to fill the business position and possibly add staff for concurrent math classes to be taught on campus.