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By Carmen Ensinger
The North Greene School District is considering going with a food service program to provide school meals for the children this coming year.
On the agenda at the June 15 monthly school board meeting was to review the proposals and discussion for possible action to accept or reject the Request for Proposals (RFP) submitted for providing a food service program to the district.
These RFP’s included breakfast and lunch as well as the fresh fruit and vegetable program.
“We received bids from two different companies for entering into a contractual agreement for the provisional school nutrition program and food service management,” North Greene Superintendent Mark Scott said. “We had Opaa Food Management and we had Organic Life, LLC. Those were the only two bids received.”
There was a big difference in the bids. Opaa had a bid of $788,954.27 while Organic Life’s bid came in at $699,356.24, a difference of $89,598.03.
“Opaa actually had a lower bid per unit for breakfast and lunch than Organic Life,” Scott said. “But when they figured in the fresh fruit and vegetable program, they bid it at $3.98 per unit and Organic Life bid it at $1 per unit.”
With 31,940 units of fruits and vegetables expected to be served, this $3 difference added an additional $95,820 to Opaa’s bid.
Scott said that Organic Life, LLC serves schools mainly in the Chicago area and he could not find any schools in this area to seek references from. Opaa, however, is very well known in this area and they are based out of Chesterfield, Mo.
It was very clear that the board felt more comfortable with Opaa, but Scott said they would have to, if they chose to go with a food service management company, award the bid to Organic Life.
“Right now, under the Illinois Statute, you have to go with the low bid for food service,” he said. “So, if you were going to award a bid, it would have to be to Organic Life because they were the low bidder.”
Board Member Rachele Malin commented that she thought a bill had passed that said that school boards no longer had to go with the low bidder.
Scott said there is a bill out there, but it has yet to be signed by the governor.
“Legislation was passed but it has been sitting on the Governor’s desk since May 6,” Scott said. “This legislation says you don’t have to go with the low bid anymore, but it only applies to new RFP’s after he signs it – requests that you put in after he signs it. So, it hasn’t been signed into law yet.”
Board Member Casey Nell asked how much it cost the district last year to operate their own food service program.
Bookkeeper Tiffany Mumford retrieved the documentation on the program. Rounding up the numbers, the food alone cost the district roughly $400,000. Add in the salary and benefits of the workers, which is around $200,000 and it costs right at $600,000 for the district to operate the program.
“So, in other words, we would be paying right at $100,000 to go to a food service,” Nell said.
Scott said that was correct, but they do more than just provide the food.
“They will handle everything to do with the school food program,” Scott said. “They will handle all the ordering, all the paperwork, all the visits and inspections, etcetera. But, remember, this is just a bid. You won’t know the actual cost until you start running the program and start getting a monthly invoice.”
Board members wanted to know why Opaa’s bid on the fresh fruits and vegetables was so high. Scott said he asked their representative that same question.
“After the bid opening and when he got back to his office, he sent me an email and said that they had figured it wrong,” Scott said.
Nell asked if they couldn’t let them refigure it again, but Scott said no.
“That is what the whole bid process is about,” Scott said. “He should have double checked his figures before he submitted it and it got read out loud. These had to be sealed bids. He explained to me the error they made. It should have been 90 cents per unit instead of $3.98 per unit, which is a shame because Opaa was the low bid for both breakfast and lunch.”
Scott said he double checked with Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) about awarding the contract before the board meeting.
“I even asked them if we could take out the proposal for the fresh fruit and vegetables,” Scott said. “They said that in the RFP that we wrote, we requested a bid on those services so you can’t just say we made a mistake and accept someone else’s bid.”
The board decided to make no decision on the issue. However, Scott said that before they can actually approve the proposal, he has to send the bids to ISBE along with their RFP and then they have to approve it. Then, when it comes back the board can formally approve it.
The board doesn’t have the option of waiting until the legislature passes the bill that would allow them to take any bid – not just the low bidder because the district can only bid out for food service in the last year of a bargaining agreement.
“So, if we do another three-year contract, we can’t do another RFP until the end of that contract,” Scott said. “So, if you opt to go with a food service company, you will have to go with Organic Life.”
In other action, the board made a number of new hires for the coming school year after an hour-long closed session.
Becky Pepper was hired as the district’s Special Education Coordinator Supervisor at a salary of $80,000. This is a 10-month, four-year contract with a start date of Aug. 1 with additional terms and conditions to be determined.
Jeremy Sharrow was reassigned as the high school physical education teacher while Breanna Harmon was reassigned as the high school science teacher.
The following were hired:
Annette Bower, special education cross categorical at junior high; Christy Bushnell, special education cross categorical at elementary; Cody Leonard, high school math; Joe Davis, junior high physical education; J.P. Langly, elementary self-contained classroom; Kala Wahl recalled as high school science.
The following coaches were approved:
Logan Staats, junior high girls basketball; Joe Davis, junior high boys basketball; Cody Leonard, high school track; Ashley Thomas, head high school basketball coach with assistants Dominic Booth, Hunter Clanton, Logan Ross and Craig Barnard.
Approved as play director was Jessica Corbel and the board accepted the resignation of Taylor Armold as the school nurse.