Pawtucket schools’ contract with Sodexo in jeopardy

Rhode Island DOE refuses to approve contract, citing district’s failure to follow proper procedures

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Education say they are "unable to approve" a new three-year food service contract with city mainstay Sodexo, meaning school officials must abandon the deal or risk losing big reimbursement dollars.

In a letter to school officials, Becky Bessette, administrator of child nutrition programs in the Office of Statewide Efficiencies, said that the Pawtucket School Committee "failed to follow the evaluation process pre-approved by RIDE" when it approved a contract with Sodexo over low-bidder Chartwells at a June 30 meeting.

"Lack of RIDE approval would impact our ability to reimburse Pawtucket for meals served through the school meal programs," wrote Bessette.

The total reimbursement that the Pawtucket School Department could stand to lose is more than $3.67 million, according to Bessette.

The ruling from RIDE appears to serve as an ultimatum for the Pawtucket School Committee: Either reverse course on the contract with Sodexo and sign a contract with Chartwells or risk losing the money.

"The matter is now in the hands of the Pawtucket School Department," said RIDE spokesman Elliot Krieger.

School Committee Chairman Michael Araujo, who said Monday that he "respected the bid process" and originally voted for Chartwells, had not heard about the ruling from RIDE. He told The Breeze that the school board will need to get advice from legal counsel before deciding what to do.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

Ideas and Innovation
tapas

I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

Ideas and Innovation
making meals

This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

Industry News & Opinion
sharing love

Having never personally experienced a hurricane, I can only imagine the horrors faced by the millions of people whose lives were affected by Harvey and Irma in late August and early September. It’s a group that comprises uncounted noncommercial operations, including Houston Independent School District, which serves 215,000 students.

But from that tragedy has come one of the most impressive feats of foodservice I’ve seen since coming on board at this magazine, partially spearheaded by Nutrition Officer Betti Wiggins , who only just joined the district. For the entire school year,...

FSD Resources