ST. JOHN | A report on restructuring the Lake Central School Corp. food service department this year caused sparks to fly between a board member and a central office administrator at Monday's School Board meeting.
Board member Valentina Lozanowski aggressively questioned Assistant Superintendent Al Gandolfi about why there are more food service personnel working this year and why they are getting raises in an era of budget cuts.
Lozanowski, who is running for re-election to the Lake Central School Board in the November general election, said the board heard at its last meeting that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to clean the cafeteria.
She was referring to a criticism from audience member David Kozel about cafeteria assistants, other staff and principals doing janitorial work in school cafeterias.
Gandolfi said the district is down 21 custodians because of restructuring of that department and budgetary cuts. Janitors no longer clean up the cafeteria, which leaves the tasks to food service staff, he said.
“There are inequities across the corporation, and there have been plenty of inequities in food service,” Gandolfi said. “We did not have a process in place so people could aspire to the next level because the salary was the same.”
Elementary food service managers are now performing far more tasks and should be compensated for that work, he said.
In addition, Gandolfi said when the Lake Central School Corp. dropped out of the Northwest Indiana Service Center last year the food service department assumed more responsibilities for bidding contracts.
“We don’t need any more help,” Gandolfi said. “I applaud principals who pick up a cloth and wipe a cafeteria table. The same tasks are being done. What’s different is who is performing these tasks.”
In a related presentation, Director of Food Services Gladys Rediger reported about the new stricter USDA guidelines that all school cafeterias must now follow for lunches served.
Among those changes are more fruits and vegetables for students to choose and limiting bread. Even macaroni and cheese must feature low sodium, be low calorie and be made with only whole wheat macaroni.
“This has been a real challenge,” Rediger said. “They have been well received so far. We hope for participation of staff and parents to help with the menus.”
Lake Central School Corp. has “a lot of kids on special diets,” she said. “We have diabetics, students with allergies, on low sodium diets. We are facing an epidemic in this district."