Jamal Hazzan: The Multi-Tasker
“Over the 20 years I’ve been doing this, no two days have ever been exactly alike,” says Jamal Hazzan, director of food services at the Klein Independent School District in Klein, Texas. “Each day brings a new challenge.”
—FSD of the Month, September 2007
A diverse range of successful initiatives has characterized Hazzan’s tenure at the 37-campus, 42,000 student district. In his 12 years at Klein, he has upgraded all of the schools’ equipment and technology; revamped menu, training and quality control strategies, and taken more control over purchasing and vending operations.
Today, departmental income has increased from $5.4 million in 1995 to over $13 million, and participation is up 5% above student population increases—a testament to his efforts.
The tech expert: Prior to his position at Klein, a suburb of Houston, Hazzan was equipment and safety director at the nearby Alpine Independent School District, a role that made him an expert on technology issues. When he arrived at Klein in 1995, he immediately put his specialty to use. “I found a lot of challenges, and most were technology-related,” he says. “For example, when I started [in July] we didn’t even have cash registers—we were using cigar boxes. By January, we had registers in every school, and we still use that system today.”
All registers are networked with the schools’ central office—a cutting-edge feature when it was implemented—and sales figures are downloaded each night. Hazzan also quickly employed a computerized inventory and ordering system, through which kitchen managers transmit grocery orders to the central office, where they are reviewed and then sent to vendors.
“These were my first projects at Klein, and they really helped make things easier and more organized,” says Hazzan. “My philosophy on technology is that it has to add value to the operation. I do a lot of research to gauge the benefits and costs of any new system, and I will never introduce something simply because it is available.”
Hazzan recently introduced a biometric time-keeping system (employees are identified through fingerprints) that was soon adapted by all auxiliary departments in the schools. “Managers can easily see who is shorthanded, and they can react instantly, sending emails for substitutes,” he explains.
The innovation that Hazzan is most proud of is a new freezer and cooler monitoring system that will be completed this year. The system monitors temperatures 24 hours a day, and sends emails and pages to supervisors if temperatures go outside acceptable ranges.
“We already implemented this in some schools, but this year we’ll rely on it 100%,” says Hazzan. “When you do it the old fashioned way, with a thermometer, it’s not always reliable. A cooler might go down Friday afternoon and we wouldn’t know about it until Monday, or there might be a temporary power outage that spoils the food. [With the new system,] we know instantly—and our employees don’t have to keep checking temps.”
Look to the private sector: A native of Long Island, N.Y., Hazzan received an economics degree from the University of Buffalo in 1981. After working for seven years as a manager for Burger King Corp., Hazzan moved to Houston to open his own cafeteria-style restaurant, which catered to local office workers. When the restaurant closed after a year and a half, Hazzan entered the school business at Alpine.
Today, he draws on his experiences in the private sector when planning menus. “Our customers—the students—are getting more savvy,” he says. “We try to copy what goes over well in ‘the real world,’ because we know that works.”