2006-12-14 / Front Page

School Committee seeks lunch vendor at tonight’s workshop

By Donna K. Drago

School Committee seeks lunch vendor at tonight’s workshop

In preparation for a special meeting tonight, the School Committee put the finishing touches on a list of requirements for prospective food vendors at its Dec. 7 meeting.

The committee decided some months ago that it wanted to improve the quality of the lunches offered to children at the school and is asking interested vendors to show up tonight to respond to their requirements, ask questions, and tour the schools’ kitchen facilities. This meeting is a “pre-bid conference,” said School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser. She said that information and questions from potential vendors will help the school board fine tune its request for proposals that Kaiser expected to go out in January.

Among the nutritional requirements the school board is putting into its “wish list” is a desire to serve only beverages without added sugars, like milk, water and 100-percent fruit juices.

School Committee Vice Chairwoman Julie Kallfelz said she heard from parents that BGH or bovine growth hormones and antibiotics in dairy products were undesirable. The committee will ask vendors if BGH and antibiotic free milk is available and cost competitive. Other food items on the school board’s hit list are trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup.

For the past several years, the Jamestown School District has bought its school lunches from the North Kingstown School Department’s food service, but in recent years the NK service has upped the amount of unhealthy snacktype foods and sugary beverages offered because they reap a greater profit on those items.

The school board in Jamestown wants to offer a healthier lunch at a cost-effective price.

Superintendent Robert Power said that in addition to all of the food service conglomerates, local eateries have been contacted to see if there is an interest in providing lunch to the schools.

“We called them all personally,” Power said, adding, “there was some interest.”

Power said at last week’s meeting that no vendor had specifi- cally said that they would attend tonight’s session.

“I hope someone will show up,” Kaiser said. Legislation on reimbursements

for mandates

In other business, the School Committee discussed language embedded in the newly approved bill S-3050, which was introduced earlier this year by state Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Jamestown, Newport) and others. The bill mandates that cities and towns in Rhode Island must lower their 5.5 percent tax cap for this year by one-quarter percent next year and each year thereafter, until 2013 when the cap will be set at 4 percent.

Within the bill is language that says that as part of this bill the state will begin reimbursing school districts for payments made for mandates that are in excess of federal mandates that have been on the books prior to July 1, 1979. According to the bill, the state Department of Administration must identify a list of state mandates each year by Jan. 1 and the school districts have until April 1 to identify the mandates they are entitled to be reimbursed for. By Oct. 1, the DOA submits to the budget office a report by each city and town on the cost of unfunded mandates, which are then included in the state budget and doled out to towns by July of the following year.

New language in the bill adds: “the provisions . . . of this chapter may be excused, avoided or suspended only by law enacted by the affirmative vote of three-fifths of the full membership of each house of the general assembly.”

Kaiser said she has written a list of items to be clarified on the bill’s language and sent them to Sen. Paiva Weed among others.

“All this is already on the books,” Kaiser told surprised school board members, who, like those in other districts have been struggling with the cost of unfunded mandates for years.

Kaiser said that the Jamestown School Committee will pursue reimbursement on the mandates “publicly and loudly,” adding, “We will get other districts to do the same.”

The committee agreed to support

an initiative by the Pawtucket School Board to call for legislation to cap a school district’s contribution to special education tuitions at $30,000, with the state paying the additional costs.

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