School restructures food service program

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 7/19/00.

Following a closed meeting, the Paynesville Area School Board restructured its food service program by eliminating the position of food service manager at its Tuesday night meeting.

The board went into closed session at 9:30 p.m., called in food service manager Barb Koehn midway through its deliberations, and reopened the meeting at 10:45 p.m. At that time, board member Deb Glenz made a motion to eliminate the position of food service manager effective immediately, which was unanimously approved. In a second motion, the board established a new part-time position in the area of accounting.

The recommendation to eliminate the position of food service manager came from the food service committee, which met on Monday, June 26. Members of the food service committee are: Maurice Dosdall, Deb Glenz, Gretchen O'Fallon, and superintendent Howard Caldwell.

During the closed meeting, the board reviewed personnel issues with Koehn. The board opted not to renew her contract as food service manager after concluding a lack of communication with the kitchen staff resulted in irreconcilable conflicts.

"I feel this move is over personality conflicts and has nothing to do with my job performance," Koehn said.

The head cooks will be assuming some of the food service manager's duties, including preparing menus, ordering food, and keeping inventory. The head cook at the high school is Mary Solum and at the elementary school is Betty Sieben.

Koehn's bookkeeping strength led the board to create the accounting position. One of the key elements will be to keep track of federal and state guidelines for free and reduced meal applications for the district. The number of students receiving free and reduced meals has several purposes beyond food service. For instance, it is used to determine the amount of compensatory revenue the district receives.

In his agenda summary, Caldwell noted tremendous strides in the food delivery and client satisfaction, helping the food service program turn a profit the last two years. At the end of May, the food service account had a balance of $48,846.

But the account is projected to be $1,658 in the red by the end of the 2000-01 school year. By eliminating the position of food service manager, the board expects to save more than $10,000, largely in salary costs.

The district has reorganized the food service department four times in the past decade. After the retirement of Delores Schwandt as head cook, the school tried two outside contractors before hiring Koehn.

She has served as the school's food service manager for six years. Koehn said she was surprised by the board's elimination of her position. In an interview after the meeting, Koehn said the board members had a list of complaints but she is unaware of what they are. "In talking with some of the cooks, the board never investigated any of the complaints against me," Koehn said.

Koehn was offered the new accounting position. However, as the details of the position are unknown (hours, wages, job duties), she has not accepted it yet. Caldwell is working on a job description for the accounting position.

Koehn's contract ended on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. She had not signed a contract for the next school year.

Other business
•The board approved the fee schedule for the new school year. Student athletic admissions will go from $1 to $2 per event. Adult activity passes will be $35 for single and $60 couples.

Athletic participation fees increased by $5. Seventh and eighth graders will now pay $15 per sport and high school students $25, with a maximum of $120 per family for the year. Matt Dickhausen, athletic director, told the school board that Paynesville has the lowest fees in the conference. According to the Minnesota State High School League, fees range anywhere from $25 to $100 per sport. Sauk Centre charges $69 per activity, Dickhausen added.

The cost of lunch tickets will increase by five cents. Elementary lunches will now cost $1.40 per meal and middle and high school meals $1.50.

Substitute teachers working in the district will see a pay raise of $5 per day. An occasional substitute will receive $85 per day and long-term substitutes will be paid $90 per day.

"We are not at the top of the scale," Caldwell said of the pay increase, "but we are not at the bottom, either." He hopes the pay increase will make the availability of substitutes better than last year.

•The board designated The Paynesville Press as its official newspaper.

•The board kept its meeting time and place: the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 8 p.m. in the elementary media center.

•The board approved paying the chairperson and clerk $125 per year and the treasurer $50 per year.

•The board approved leaving their compensation rate the same: $40 per meeting and $80 for a full day of business.

•Due to a conflict, the board approved holding its August meetings on Aug. 15 and 29.

•Senator Michelle Fischbach and Representative Doug Stang met with the board to discuss education issues from the last legislative session.

(Michael Jacobson contributed to this story.)

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