Editorial: Healy deserves recognition for diligence to food service budget

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pioneer Valley Regional School, which has had to contend with some fiscal, morale and staffing difficulties this past year, seems to have ended the year with some success.

Changes in staffing in the food service operation will start cutting into its $220,000 deficit, discovered unexpectedly this year. The changes are expected to save the district $46,248 in its first year and $77,076 in the second year.

According to Assistant Superintendent Gail Healy, who is also the district’s food service director, the savings comes primarily from staff reductions. Bernardston Elementary School’s cafeteria manager was laid off, and Northfield Elementary School’s assistant cafeteria manager retired. We are sure it was a difficult move for Healy to make, but it’s her job to make her program live within its means.

This plan came after parents and others objected to an earlier plan to consolidate food preparation at Pioneer Valley Regional School. By not filling the two positions and shifting roles of those who remain, Healy said the new plan will actually save the district more money than an earlier one proposed in April.

The main goal is to reduce the school lunch fund deficit, which topped $201,000 last year and startled the auditors, who said such a deficit for a district the size of Pioneer is enormous. Since then, the figure has continued to grow to about $220,000.

By additional consolidation before the 2018-2019 school year, Healy expects to save an additional $30,829 the second year.

When Pioneer Cafeteria Manager Sue Wood retires after next school year, her position will be eliminated. Instead, the district will seek a district-wide cafeteria manager who will be responsible for tasks like food bidding, filing state reports and ordering food through the Department of Defense’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

“We’re trying to save money by cutting down who does all these things,” Healy said.

Next school year, one Pioneer cafeteria helper, who assists with food preparation, serving and cleanup, will instead split her time between Northfield Elementary School and Bernardston Elementary School, working the same number of hours, Healy said. The helper, she said, already practiced the rotation before the school year ended.

Additionally, Pioneer’s two cashiers will each work two hours per day instead of three. With the helper working at the elementary school, Pioneer will have five food service staff instead of six.

Healy said between managers and helpers, staff will always have assistance.

While some of the changes won’t be welcome by everyone — especially those directly affected — they were tough but necessary changes to start the process of returning the food service to fiscal health at a cost taxpayer’s can afford. Healy and her team should be commended for their effort.