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Halifax County Trustees agree to raise school meal prices / May 15, 2014
Halifax County trustees on Monday night spent most of their two-hour regular monthly meeting dealing with school meals. They unanimously approved a ten cent increase in the cost of school lunches, raising the price from $2 to $2.10 each.

Board members indicated they had no choice in upping the price of lunches since not to do so might cause them to lose federal funds which reimburses the schools for the price of free and reduced lunches.

Two other meal matters were not so easily resolved. The first of those was a request from Lori Hale, food services coordinator, who sought permission to have lunches for 40 students at the Cluster Springs Early Learning Center prepared off site and delivered to the school. Hale explained to trustees that the meals could be prepared and packaged at nearby Cluster Springs Elementary and delivered to the Learning Center.

Hale noted that the food service program at the Center has consistently lost money this year since the participation level is not high enough to sustain the current staff of one full-time and two part-time employees and the service’s operation...

Hale said she does not want to completely close the Center’s kitchen, but rather asked for permission to try the new plan for four to six weeks after which it would be evaluated. She added that she saw no threat to the jobs of the current employees of the kitchen since she expects there to be vacancies elsewhere which they might fill.

Trustees, however postponed giving Hale an answer to her request, noting they are currently looking at the possibility of awarding a contract to an outside food service management company to provide school meals.

And it was on this issue that trustees spent much of their meeting time, discussing the award of a contract after bids for the food service were opened earlier on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m.

The bid opening attracted only one interested company, Sodexo. According to Superintendent Merle Herndon, there are only three food service vendors who operate in Virginia, this one being headquartered in Pennsylvania.

But ED-8 trustee Walter Potts said he had a problem awarding a contract when there was only one bidder. He said it is his understanding that in seeking bids the school board was looking for competitive offerings. “With only one bid there is no competition,” Potts said.

“What is this board’s policy on bids?” Potts asked. “Do we have to have two, three or..?”

Assistant School Superintendent Valdivia Marshall said she keeps the board’s policies but had not reviewed them recently to see what they required. She said she would reportt back to board members on Tuesday about what was required.

Contacted on Tuesday, Marshall said she had spoken with the school board attorney who advised her that single bids are acceptable so long as they meet the specified needs of the board.

Now trustees are awaiting delivery of Sodexo’s bid (which numbers over 100 pages) to determine if it does include the needs of the school system. The board is expected to meet again on Monday evening, June 2 if Mr. Sullivan of Sodexo can be present at the time to answer questions and review the bid.

In other business trustees approved 12 month payments to all 879 school system employees. Of that number only 88 currently receive their checks paid in 10 or 11 month installments.

Finance Director Jay Camp said having everyone paid on a 12 month schedule will streamline the payroll function into a more efficient operation.

Board members also approved the VRS employer retirement contribution to rise from the current level of 7.33 percent to 10.98 percent for the coming year. That will mean increasing next year’s contribution over that of this year by $48,000. “It’s simply a matter of pay now or pay later,” remarked Herndon.

The Board also approved a resolution commemorating the 60th anniversary of the historic U. S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown v. the Board of Education.

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Does this mean the food will be of better quality?

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