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School Board Hears Nutrition Services Reorganization Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday September 22, 2006

Reorganization of the Nutrition Services Department, a progress report from the B-Tech, and a presentation by the Life Academy at Berkeley High School were highlights of the BUSD Board meeting on Wednesday. 

Ann Cooper, the Director of Nutritional Services, BUSD, who was hired and funded by a three year financial grant from the Chez Panisse Foundation in October 2005, presented a staffing plan and a budget model to restructure the Nutrition Services Department that would better serve the Wellness/Nutrition Policy. 

Cooper informed the board that since she was not likely to remain a long term director, it was important to approve the reorganization of the Nutrition Services Department at this point in order for her to have time to hire or train new staff so that they continued to meet the new standards the BUSD was bringing to school lunches.  

Cooper stressed that the modifications to the structure would help to bring about better evaluation and supervisory relationships. “Currently, the Director and the Nutrition Services Manager evaluate and supervise more than 55 employees who are working at 16 different sites. This relationship makes the oversight, training and development of staff very difficult and limits accountability,” she said. 

Six new positions were recommended which included an executive chef, three sous chefs, an accountant and an administrative assistant. 

The executive chef would be responsible for overseeing district wide daily food production and would also open and oversee the King Dining Commons. Housed at the Central Kitchen, the high school and Nutrition Services Warehouse respectively, the sous chefs would help to meet the demand of the current menu of fresh foods.  

“Since we are now using whole fresh foods, it requires knowledge of not only specific cooking techniques, but of purchasing, receiving and distribution models, as well as food safety protocols,” Cooper said. 

Director Nancy Riddle and Board V.P. Joaquin Rivera asked Cooper to provide more detail about the dollar value of each of these positions.  

According to the current report, by collapsing five vacant positions the department will save $133,000. The increased revenues from the Meals for Needy cost of living increas and the increase in food sales, all of which are reflected in the current budget, would also make up the difference needed to cover the increase in payroll costs of approximately $187,000. 

Cooper stressed the fact that this reorganization would bring about no impact to the general fund. “We have created these positions keeping in mind the lowest salary levels. The accountant position would be funded equally by the CNN Grant and Nutrition Services,” she said. 

Rivera commented that the budget that was allocated for the cafeteria had already encroached on the general fund. 

“If we are going to have the good quality food that we are giving our kids right now, provide them with fresh food, organic food, then it is going to be expensive,” said BUSD Superintendent Michelle Lawrence. “The board has approved the budget each year that has indicated these encroachments,” she said, adding that it was important to monitor these encroachment dollars at the same time. 

Board director John Selawski said that it was not entirely realistic to expect that these six positions would come in at the lowest salary level.  

Cooper replied that while making the recommendations they had kept in mind more of a middle range figure. “I’ll do what I need to do to not ask for more money,” she said. 

“The program is trying to move us in the right direction,” said Director Shirley Issel. “We have had very good reviews and it is not just because we increased prices. The students and their parents are very excited about the work being done in the nutrition services.” 

BUSD President Terry Doran echoed her words and said that even if the reorganization meant an increase of $187,000 it would not be a problem. “The cafeteria budget is not an encroachment on the general fund, it is part of the general fund. I for one am thoroughly convinced that better nutrition is an important part of improving the school district. The state funds are not enough for this. It will only get our children ketchup and fatty foods.” Doran added that it was important to keep in mind sustainability and to be cost-effective at the same time. 

“Given the current financial position, the addition of any new position is always a matter of concern for us,” said Riddle. “When we were passing the budget we knew that we were spending several hundred thousand dollars more than other school districts do on their cafeterias. It would really help to have the details on the cost of individual positions so that we can watch the budget carefully.” 

In the end the amendment was approved by the board with the amendment that BUSD would be provided with a spreadsheet containing the budget break-down for the individual positions. Director Rivera voted in opposition. 


B-Tech Report 

Principal Victor Diaz of Berkeley Technology Academy presented board members with an informational report on the school. Diaz informed the board that B-Tech’s Acedemic Performance Index (API) had increased from 370 in 2005 to 532 in 2006. “We have had a 162 point API growth, the second highest in the county.’ he said.  

B-Tech’s CAHSEE pass rate has also improved from 18 percent to 40 percent in Math and 255 to 47 percent in English Language Arts during the same year. The school has currently set a goal of 100 percent pass rate on CAHSEE for all 11th and 12th graders 

Diaz also spoke about “Relationships, rigor, and relevance,” the new three R’s for B-Tech.  

“We are expecting to increase enrollment compared to last year and our attendance levels are already improving. Students are taking an active interest in classes such as gender studies and there is an awareness about language usage and behavior on campus,” he said.  

Diaz added that community building was an important focus for the school. “The students are also talking about lunch-time movies that would help keep students inside school during recess. We have also started after-school dance classes and a student store and student government body are in the works. However we feel the need for parent involvement and vocational educational options. More physical activities, and after school programs such as music and art are also required to help change the culture of the school,” 


Life Academy 

Teachers and students of the Life Academy at BHS gave the board a presentation of their program that has met with tremendous success since its inception last September. 

“Life Academy’s average attendance and average G.P.A. is higher than that of other Berkeley High 9th graders,” said BHS Principal Jim Slemp. 

Life Academy helps students transition to high school and is dedicated to bringing about academic success through rigorous and engaging teaching standards.  

The program includes interdisciplinary teaching and has a project-based curriculum. The classrooms have a total of 17 students instead of the 28 students in the other BHS classrooms, which students said helped them concentrate and spend more time with teachers.