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Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Changes at lunchtime: staff cuts, menu update

By Margie Wuebker
MINSTER - Officials at Minster Local Schools have cooked up some tasty surprises in the cafeteria for the 2006-2007 school year, including getting some hired help from students.
In addition to new items on the menu, Superintendent Gayl Ray told board of education members Monday night the cost-cutting measures being implemented in the department will save approximately $9,000.
The middle school will have a hot line as well as a cold line with such "grab and go" items as wraps, salads and yogurt. The same offerings will be available at the high school.
Plans call for a business from the area to provide pizza for popular pizza days.
"We are embarking on a major overhaul of the menu at both the middle school and high school," Ray said. "Students are excited about the changes and so am I."
The superintendent's student advisory group, comprised of representatives from each grade level at the high school, addressed the issue of menu changes during after-school meetings held during the past school year.
Members polled fellow students regarding likes and dislikes. They also gathered information from other schools regarding menus, portion sizes and prices and sat down with cafeteria personnel to discuss changes before drafting sample menus.
Three positions have been eliminated in the cafeteria/food service as Ray continues to look for ways to cut costs.
"I discovered one employee spent 90 percent of her time washing trays," the superintendent said. "The decision has been made to switch to disposables."
The switch equates to projected savings in the amount of water used, the cost of heating water for washing and the amount of chemicals used. Additionally, there is no need for a person to wash trays since the disposables are bound for trash cans.
Students will be hired to assist during mealtime at the rate of $1.60 per hour plus a free lunch. Only those who have study hall or free periods will be eligible as no one will be excused from class to work. Current plans call for sports teams and clubs to be featured some days.
"This is a new concept for us," Ray explained. "A lot of area schools already hire students. We won't know whether it will work here unless we try."
In another cost-cutting measure, the superintendent noted a maintenance contract with the Western Ohio Computer Organization is being dropped. The contract covers two video systems used by one teacher twice a year at an annual cost of $4,070.
"It currently is not cost effective for us to pay a high maintenance fee with very low teacher usage at this time," Ray said.
The superintendent added other cost-cutting measures are likely as officials continue to scrutinize spending in light of financial constraints. The board has indicated it may seek an income tax levy in November with revenue earmarked for operating expenses.
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