By KAITLYN NAPLES
Despite nearly two years of rallies, petitions and outcries from cafeteria workers and the public, the Board of Education voted, along party lines, to privatize the cafeteria work to Long-Island company Whitsons Culinary Group.
All Republican board members, chair Larry Amara, Genard Dolan, Jill Fitzgerald, Jennifer Dube, and Jeffrey Morgan, voted in favor of outsourcing the cafeteria work to Whitsons in an attempt to eliminate the deficit the cafeteria budget has been struck with over the last few years. Democratic board members Karen Vibert, Karen Hintz, and Thomas O’Brien voted against the motion to privatize.
At last Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, supporters of the cafeteria workers packed the auditorium at the school administrative building in an attempt to change the board’s mind about privatizing.
City Councilor Calvin Brown called the move to privatize “bad politics and bad leadership” to privatize and said there are many students, parents and city leaders, who are against it.
“The money that you would save on privatization has already been lost on this ridiculous legal battle,” Brown said as he referred to the arbitration and mediation between the Board and Union Local 2267.
Jim Jankoski also spoke in support of the cafeteria workers and said it isn’t the fault of the café workers because of “this board’s lack of basic budgetary skills.”
In the 2010-11 school year, Board Chair Larry Amara said the board reduced the amount of workers in an attempt to lower or eliminate the ongoing deficit the café budget faces each year. This year, the café budget is over $200,000 in debt.
In its contract with the board, Whitsons has said it will interview all current cafeteria workers and hire those who are qualified to fill the positions.
Amara said “none of the Union’s attempts” to block privatization have been successful to date.
“We need to focus on the business we know best, mainly education, and let the contractors focus on the business they know best, food service,” Amara added.
Board member Karen Vibert had made a motion to hold off on privatizing for another year. However, that motion failed. Vibert said the board has seen a lot of members of the public upset about many issues. However, she said she has never seen the same amount of people in support of the same thing in the past six years she has been on the board, suchas the amount of people in support of the café workers.
Thomas O’Brien said, while the board understands the current practices for the café budget aren’t sustainable, “I believe we have a commitment to our employees.” He added he believed the board and union could continue to work together to resolve the issue.
Jill Fitzgerald said the decision to outsource isn’t a political one, but a decision that will be able to still provide food to the students and provide jobs, but without an ongoing deficit.
Newer board member Jennifer Dube said she isn’t a politician, and will only vote for the best interest of the students, as she has two children in the school system.
“Anything I vote for is for the benefit of the students,” Dube, a Republican, added.
By KAITLYN NAPLES