WFISD Considers Privatizing Its Food Service
WFISD Considers Privatizing Its Food Service
Chef and dietician expected to prepare fresh, hot meals
WFISD Interim Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod turns to get information from an audience member as he discusses the administration's desire to change grounds management services from Perm-O-Green to low-bidder Work Services. Pictured from left: Secretary Donna Vogt, board member Elizabeth Yeager, Tim Sherrod (standing), (hidden is board member Bob Payton), board president Dale Harvey, Superintendent Mike Kuhrt, board members Bill Franklin,Tom Bursey, (mostly hidden) Adam Groves and Mike Rucker.
The school district wants to fill its children’s tummies with delicious fresh, hot meals – not make money for the Food Service fund.
The meals that children receive in WFISD schools may be the only hot meals – or the only meals – some children receive all day, so the goal now is to make each meal a good one. Especially since the District’s Food Service Fund already has a $2 million fund balance and the state requires that it plow its earnings back into bettering its program.
The change in focus is causing WFISD to consider moving from in-house preparation, which amounts to heating up frozen entrees, to turning the food service over to a private contractor.
WFISD board members tackled this and a long list of mid-year business in a two-and-a-half-hour noon special session Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Food Service Management Service
WFISD presented its plan to bring in the Chartwells Food Service Management team to run its food service departments. The outsource changeover is designed to bring in a team that includes a chef and dietician who will improve food quality for children and provide training for cafeteria workers.
WFISD’s Food Service is currently run in-house under the direction of Denise Brown. It already has a fund balance of $2 million, so running the department to make money, as it has been doing efficiently, is not the primary goal, said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.
Most current employees would be kept on in the transition.
“I don’t want to make money in food service. That’s not our goal,” said Mr. Kuhrt. “We want better food and staff properly trained with professional development opportunities. We want them to learn how to prepare fresh cooked meals.”
Chartwells told WFISD representatives that, besides bringing in a chef and dietician to direct operations, the company would also provide unique opportunities for culinary students at the District’s new Career Education Center. The company also predicts it can boost lunch attendance at the junior high and high schools.
Board member Elizabeth Yeager, the mother of a teenager, was skeptical. “How do we entice them to stay?” she asked. Many teenager prefer going off-campus for lunch.
“Better food,” said Mr. Kuhrt.
“Having a 17-year-old – it’s not the quality of food” that sends him off campus for lunch, she said.
Board members Bob Payton and Bill Franklin asked WFISD administration to consult Midwestern State University about the quality service of Chartwells, since MSU already uses them, and to call the long list of references about them.
“I need to see more depth,” said Ms. Yeager, who said she had just gotten the details on the proposed change earlier in the day. Mr. Payton asked to see a representative of Chartwells at the board meeting Feb. 20.
Interim Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod will give a more detailed presentation of his research at the board meeting. He is facing a commodity purchasing deadline of March 1, he said.
Lunch price increase for 2017-2018
In more food-related items, the District said it will increase lunch prices at elementary and secondary schools by 10 cents in the upcoming school year. The price increase is mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture to keep WFISD in compliance with the National School Lunch Program. With the increase, elementary lunches will cost $2.65; secondary lunches will cost $2.75.
Adult meal prices will also rise by 10 cents to $2.60 for an adult breakfast and to $3.70 for an adult lunch.
Resolution for TexBuy Coop Agreement with Region 16
WFISD will participate in a cooperative purchasing program called TexBuy with Region 16 Education Service Center. The opportunity is free and gives the District more purchasing options.
Grounds Maintenance Services
Mr. Sherrod asked board members to consider awarding the District’s grounds maintenance services contract to Work Services Corporation from Wichita Falls, now that a contract with Perm-O-Green has expired.
The Work Services bid for $405,319 was the lowest of three, but it was so low that it flagged concern among some board members.
“Perm-O-Green has done a good job for us over the years,” said board member Bob Payton. The company had worked closely with the District during the long drought from which the city recently emerged. Mr. Payton said he was leery of making an unnecessary change.
Mr. Sherrod confirmed that the District had experienced no problems with current provider Perm-O-Green and could extend its expired five-year contract for one more year, if desired.
Board member Bill Franklin also voiced concern. “This reminds me of the custodial contract that we wished we’d never gotten into,” he said. It “seems undersized,” he said. He voiced concern about the company’s abilities to tackle the myriad of needs the District has as well as the fact that the company gave a flat base proposal with no proposed increase over the life of the contract. The two other bids, by Perm-O-Green and GCA Services Group, asked for a 2 percent increase in subsequent years.
“Perm-O-Green has done an excellent job and gone above and beyond. I can’t support the change myself,” said Mr. Franklin.
The work will include caring for the trees, shrubs and irrigation around the new Career Education Center, which is under construction now.
The administration asked board members to purchase four route buses to Thomas Bus for $343,000. All buses include air conditioning. The recommended purchase is for buses without seat belts, since studies show so few students actually use seat belts when they are provided.
The District can afford to buy four buses if it omits seat belts; it can buy only three equipped with seat belts.
The District puts 40,000 miles on its activity buses each year, according to Durham Bus Manager Brian Gibson.
Cooperative Program Managing Fees Report for 2015-2016
The District uses co-ops to add to its purchasing power when needed. A report of the cooperative programs used during the 2015-2016 year shows the District used 15 co-ops but needed to pay fees to only two. The largest fee of $7,695 went to Region 7. Another $100 fee went to the State of Texas Co-op.
WFISD reported receiving a rebate check from TASB BuyBoard last year for $11,881 in Nov. 2016 and a rebate from Citi bank for $9,736. Both checks went into the General Fund.
January 2017 Budget Amendments
In a 7-0 vote, board members approved the January 2017 budget amendments.
January 2017 budget amendments reflected no increase to the General Operating Fund but only function-to-function changes. Changes included UIL orchestra fees, travel supplies, a copier purchase, testing materials, office furniture, staff travel, and various registration fees and dues.
Board members inquired about a $10,000 “staff travel” expense at McNiel Middle School. It was unclear what training those teachers might be taking advantage of or if it was a future expense that had not yet occurred.
Resale property bids
Two properties that were previously struck off to the City of Wichita Falls (which acts as a Trustee for the city, Wichita County, and the Wichita Falls ISD) have received resale bids that board members were encouraged to accept.
The properties at 2215 8th Street and 1213 31st St. previously had structures located on them that have since been demolished. At one time, no one had expressed interest in purchasing either property for its struck-off value. However, now both have written offers.
Board members were asked to approve the written offer of $4,500 for the 2215 8th Street property and $830 for the 1213 31st Street property.
Habitat for Humanity request
Board members were asked to approve a request from Habitat for Humanity to donate two vacant lots at 802 Dallas Street and 807 Dallas Street for the construction of a new low-income home under the CDBG Housing Initiative Program. The group has renovated more than 100 homes in Wichita Falls under the infill-housing program for properties that have either been struck off the tax rolls or donated.
The 802 Dallas property was struck off the tax rolls on March 1, 2011. The 807 Dallas property was struck off to all three taxing entities on Feb. 1, 2011.
Statewide charter application
Board members learned that The Texas Virtual School has submitted an application to the Texas Education Agency, which triggered a notification to any district that might be affected with a request to explain its effect on the District.
WFISD is one of a list of “20 pages of districts” statewide that may be affected, said Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration.
The name of the school, Texas Virtual School, should not be confused, she said, with a similarly named “Texas Virtual Schools” that TEA has long recognized, said Ms. Patterson. This new entity will be a statewide online/virtual campus.
“The name is a concern to me,” said board member Elizabeth Yeager.
Typically, WFISD lodges its statement of impact with TEA that the proposed open-enrollment charter is expected to have a negative impact on the District.
Commencement resolution: Suspend or not?
Board members will decide again this year if they want to partially suspend the requirement of the FMH (LOCAL) policy that requires students who will participate in commencement activities and ceremonies to meet all state and local graduation requirements, including all state testing.
Local requirements for graduation are verifiable at the end of the semester. But state passing results will be received only one week prior to scheduled graduation ceremonies, making it difficult for parents and students to plan if held to the District’s current policy.
Ultimately most students who are still trying to pass End of Course or STAAR tests do so in the two opportunities they have in the spring. But the policy change helps a handful of students districtwide who fail the state assessments and will go on to further study during the summer.
The District suspended the policy for last year only, said Ms. Patterson. The state is predicting it will send test results one week prior to graduation this year, but “we feel that is still too late,” said Ms. Patterson.
Intradistrict Transfers, Classroom Assignments
The era of the WFISD Choice Program is rapidly coming to a close. The 2017-2018 seniors will be the last group who will have used the open choice policy that was popular in WFISD for decades.
The multi-year transition period is closing out transfer options at the secondary schools, but the District must now consider the Board’s direction regarding opt-outs, transfers, transitions and alignment, said Ms. Patterson.
During the 2018-2019 school year, the grades of kindergarten, 1 and 2 will be “extremely limited for transfers,” she said. She also recommended officially aligning the District’s middle and high schools so that a fifth-grader who chooses his middle school will be simultaneously choosing his high school, therefore making just one choice that will affect his next seven years.
The District is trying to simplify and streamline this very complicated program.
The necessity of the discussion is not an admission of problems but “an admission of how complicated this issue is,” said Board President Dale Harvey.
Board members communicated concern that all teachers -- and all support staff -- be first in line for transfers that would allow them to enroll their children at their own school or one near them to make transportation easy.
A high school teacher with elementary-age children would be helped if she could choose to enroll her child in a nearby elementary school instead of the one in her neighborhood, said Mr. Franklin.
Such transfers would only be available at schools with seat slots still available, clarified Ms. Yeager.
“That would help our teachers and staff,” said Mr. Franklin. “Working in a classroom is not the same as working at a job.”
Superintendent Mike Kuhrt pointed out the difficulty of broadening such an option, since numbers are so fluid during the summer and into the fall.
A school may grant a transfer to a family during the spring when it looks like the required 22-to-1 state mandate of students to teachers will be met. “After school starts, then it’s who shows up. There may be 24, 25 or 26 (children per classroom). It messes all that up.” Or, he explained, there may be no room at the school by July 21, but then several students never show up when school starts, and suddenly a transfer that was turned down now could be available.
“There’s a lot of stress for families,” said Ms. Yeager.
“And for the Student Assignment Office,” said Mr. Kuhrt.
“Do we put staff on a wait list?” asked Mr. Kuhrt.
“Give staff a first seat on the bus,” said Mr. Payton.
Discussion of this issue will continue.
Individual Graduation Committees
Forty-one WFISD senior high students (out of a graduating class of 852 members) qualify under state rules to have an Individual Graduation Committee, or IGC, set up to mediate their earning of a high school diploma.
These are students who have not yet met testing requirements for two or fewer End of Course exams. They will be required to complete additional remediation and demonstrate proficiency in the subject.
Debbie Dipprey, director of secondary curriculum, reported to board members on recent updates to this program. In years past, such students were required to attend summer school to meet their remediation requirements. This year, the state is offering one new choice, which allows them to demonstrate their proficiency through remediation before the school year ends.
The IGC process will allow the district to address about 15 students ahead of time, said Mrs. Dipprey.
“About 50 percent will eventually pass all five (End of Course tests in March and May) and graduate under the standard graduation requirements,” she said.
Cosmetology Course Addition
Until now, cosmetology students had to log 1,000 hours of instruction and complete many check-offs to sit for their licensure exam. This program is highly regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
When the state changed the required Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills in 2017-2018 for the cosmetology program, it shortened the amount of class time available to students. “This change caused us to combine two classes together to reach the desired instructional time,” said Michelle Wood, CTE coordinator.
“CTE is asking the board to approve a Cosmetology 1-Lab for one credit and a Cosmetology 2-Lab (one credit) innovative course to allow for the same curriculum but to include the hands-on instruction to meet the requirements of the licensure agency,” said Mrs. Woods.
Incentive Pay for Early Retirement/Resignation
Last year, exiting employees who gave early notice of their desire to retire or resign received special stipends – and greatly helped Human Resource employees who scurried to replace them.
This year, Human Resources Director Cyndy Kohl asked for a continuation of incentive pay. “It made a big difference,” she told board members. She estimated that early notice of highly paid staff members’ retirements could result in a savings as high as half a million dollars when replaced with slightly younger workers – a replacement that can be easily done when there is enough hiring lead time, she said.
She recommended keeping the incentive pay the same as last year at $1500 for employees retiring with TRS; $750 for employees resigning from WFISD.
Eligible employees must submit notice of their leaving between January 1 and March 10, 2017. This incentive does not apply to employees on a probationary contract or already considered for termination or non-renewal of their contract.
In a 7-0 vote, board members passed the monthly Personnel Report. In it, seven professional staff retired; four support staff retired, and five employees resigned.
Board members also approved the certified applicant pool, which included the hiring of six new teachers with a total of eight years experience.
Legislation on A-F Accountability Rating System
In a 6-1 vote, WFISD board members joined other Texas school districts in passing a resolution that criticized the state move to assign A through F grades to schools as a public school rating system.
The resolution says “no definitive research” suggests putting such a label on a school improves the school or its performance.
It also states that the A-F ratings are mostly based on STAAR test results, which don’t accurately measure student learning and provide “little meaningful information to guide student learning.”
The resolution states that “we embrace meaningful accountability” and urges the Texas Legislature to repeal the A-F rating system “and develop a community-based accountability system that empowers school districts to design their own internal systems of assessment.”
Board member Bob Payton cast the lone vote against the resolution. “I’m in favor of a resolution, but not this one,” he said. He said the school district gives out A-F grades every day and should not balk at such labels, but that this particular accountability system still needs work, he said.
Quarterly Report of Improvement Required Campuses
Three WFISD campuses are labeled Improvement Required Campuses because they failed to meet all state requirements last year in student achievement on state tests.
Each school – Booker T. Washington Elementary, Kirby Middle School, and Burgess Elementary – is working with Dr. Sheila Runnels, a Professional Service Provider assigned to the three campuses to direct remedial efforts.
In her quarterly report to board members Tuesday, Dr. Runnels told trustees that each school’s job is “to get rid of me” as they improve student achievement.
However, all three schools have missed some mid-year goals related to student achievement and, with 21 instruction days before state testing begins again, all staff members are mounting a full press to ready students for testing.
Booker T. Washington Elementary
This school has suffered from years of high staff turnover and poor discipline. Several of its student populations, including the economically disadvantaged, Hispanic and African American children, have underperformed according to the state’s recommendations.
Although discipline has improved this year and students are making improvements in academics, teachers fell short on a goal that 100 percent of them use high-yield instructional strategies.
The students also fell short on a goal for benchmark tests that 65 percent of them would meet the state’s performance level and 10 percent would meet an advanced level.
The school did meet its discipline goal by reducing office referrals.
“We have high hopes to do better,” said Dr. Runnels.
Burgess Elementary missed two of four state measurements on its last STAAR test performance. Last year, the school was also adjusting to having a new principal, Ann Pettit.
Academically, Burgess students did not meet the benchmark goal this quarter of having 65 percent of its students perform at the state’s specified level, “but we did make progress,” said Dr. Runnels.
The school did meet its goal of having 65 percent of its economically disadvantaged students meet a specific academic target. “Coaches are working hard with weekly checks,” said Dr. Runnels. “We hope the teachers are looking at the data. Teachers need to meet the needs of every student.”
The school has also been pursuing its Marzano High Reliability Schools Certification Level 1, and did meet requirements for earn Level 1, she said.
Kirby Middle School
Kirby missed three out of four state-required indexes last year because of poor academic performance. Both Burgess and Booker T. feed into Kirby, bringing their problems of poor grade level performance with them, said Kirby Principal Troy Farris.
Benchmark data for Quarter 2 did not show the 20 percent growth that teachers were striving for, “but they did make progress,” said Dr. Runnels.
“We did make some progress but there is more work to do,” she said. “This is crunch time. We are holding more tutorials. We tell teachers to know your students.” Goals are reached “kid by kid,” she said. “There’s no excuse to let up on anything this year. It’s a tough world out there.”
Ms. Yeager asked for a more complete, detailed picture of “where we were, are and need to be.” She asked, “How worried do we need to be?”
“Are there additional resources needed?” asked Mr. Franklin.
The three principals said they most needed high quality teachers who would stay for even two years in a row to help children make significant gains.
High achievement in a school is a puzzle with many pieces that must be put in place, said Dr. Runnel. Each school needs the right people who can direct the school, create the right plans, and help the teachers. “No leader has all the gifts,” she said.
“Are we seeing enough progress to validate the current plans?” asked Mr. Harvey.
“Are we missing goals with the teachers?” asked Mr. Payton. “I’m hearing bad actors are still in place.”
Staff adjustments have been made, said Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths. He is working on changing the expectations of staff and providing more staff training. “We still need some corrections….frustratingly, it takes time.”
“To ‘do training’ doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling,” said Mr. Payton.
Mr. Farris said he most needed parents to step up to help children. Good teaching and learning happens between 7:35 a.m. and 3:05 p.m., but then students get nothing after that at home. Parents need to help children learn their lessons, he said.
Just bringing in more tutors is not always the answer, because they must teach a child in a way he hasn’t had the information presented before, said Dr. Runnels. “There are all sorts of pieces” to success, she said.
Board members urged all three principals to ask for anything they needed to help them through the rest of the year.