School officials table food services contract

School board members tabled by unanimous consent a food services contract with Nana Management Services, LLC (NMS) at Monday’s regular school board meeting.

In particular, discussion focused on codifying an unwritten agreement between the company and the school board over providing a vehicle for use around town and around minor statutory changes to be made after reviews by the school system’s lawyer and the Alaska Department of Education & Early Childhood Development.

“We feel like we’ve got a program that the state’s approved and NMS will approve,” he said.

The Nana Management Services proposal estimates the program will cost $63,453 for 174 serving days, which is a marked decrease from the $119,171 total of operations for the 2012-13 school year, though district officials have said the 2012-13 amount is inflated by start-up costs in the first year. In addition, revenue figures for the estimated cost were based on the 2012-13 figures and could prove malleable, officials said.

Assuming the food services contract moves forward, the program cost could be reduced as district and company officials work together to find more potential profits, superintendent Rich Rhodes told the board.

“The idea is that we’re trying to find ways to increase the number of kids eating, the quality of the meals, doing some incentive things, maybe a snack program. Finding ways to increase revenue will help the district reduce some of those costs, too. Our goal is to do something similar to … Sitka, so that we can have a balanced budget off of the food services program.”

A snack cart during morning break time might encourage students to purchase food, broadening participation and reducing the program’s cost, Rhodes said.

That initially created the appearance of a discrepancy between fixed prices the company charges for meals, set at $4.92 per breakfast meal and $7.21 per lunch meal, said school board president Susan Eagle. A larger number of meals could appear to lead to an overall increase in the cost, Eagle said.

“We’re set at paying a set rate for these meals, but an increase isn’t going to benefit us at all, so I was wondering where the tradeoff is there,” she said.

Discussion around the contract had focused on the idea of a snack cart as a potential way of boosting the program’s revenue as well as participation, Rhodes said.

“One of the talking points was if we could work together to increase productivity and milk consumptions and meet their goals, then the district contribution could be … reduced,” he said.

The contract under consideration is a four-year project renewed annually, meaning school board members will have the opportunity to review the program’s performance prior to renewing it, Rhodes said.

Start-up cost estimates also weren’t addressed in the NMS proposal, board member Rinda Howell pointed out.

“The question is, how much does it cost for us to get everything up and running for them?” she said.

The lone remaining cost is of the purchase and installation of a convection oven, Rhodes said, which school officials hadn’t established a cost for yet.

In addition, a contract clause states that the school system will provide a vehicle and adequate maintenance for it, which NMS will instead provide from Juneau. The contract should be changed to reflect that, school board members said.

They pledged to hold a brief meeting to approve the contract before the Rhodes’s depature.

In other business, the school board approved 5-0 a contract addendum for Ryan Howe and discussed, but took no action on, measures they could enact to retain paraprofessionals. The board also voted 5-0 to approve a Memorandum of Agreement with the Association of Alaska School Boards on a consortium for digital learning.


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