Wednesday, August 05th, 2015 | Author:

PAWTUCKET – This vote was far less controversial.

The Pawtucket School Committee last week signed a contract extension with food service vendor Aramark, saying they were happy to do so after the company’s performance in its first year feeding city students.

Aramark came in when the local school district was in a “scary place” last November after former food service provider Sodexo walked out, said School Committee Chairman Michael Araujo, and the state-approved vendor took the reins the day before Thanksgiving without missing a beat.

Members of the School Committee voted last November to rescind a three-year contract with Sodexo after officials from the Rhode Island Department of Education took issue with the board going with a company other than the lowest bidder, Chartwells.

A controversial vote last June to sign with Sodexo over Chartwells, despite Chartwells coming in with a bid $171,000 less, prompted a threat of legal action from the spurned vendor and warnings from R.I.D.E. that the school district could lose $4 million in meal reimbursements if it didn’t restart the bidding process.

With the state’s master vendor list available to them as an alternative to the bid process, school officials decided to sign with state vendor Aramark.

Going with Aramark gave the school board the option of starting the bid process again this year, but they now say they have no reason to move away from the company since they’re happy with the service and the financial terms of the agreement stay exactly the same.

School Committee member Joe Knight congratulated the company for taking over “in such a difficult situation,” with just two weeks’ worth of transition time.

Supt. Patti DiCenso said Aramark workers were “amazingly efficient” with their “seamless transition” to Pawtucket, “acclimating in some very good ways.”

Students have given their approval to the new lunch program at every turn, said DiCenso. One of the best examples was when local high school students were tweeting and Snapchatting Aramark’s “make your own burger” bar as “the coolest thing that ever happened in high school,” she said.

DiCenso said she wants to see what Aramark can do with a whole year to plan their strategy instead of just a few weeks.

School Committee member Erin Dube said she and colleague Kim Grant visited the schools last fall expecting to find “some chaos,” but could find nothing but positives after the new company took over.

Aramark officials said there were some adjustments to be made on the fly, but they were able to take advantage of the knowledge from existing staff who “love the kids and love serving them well.” They said staff and students have noticed the difference in the food since Aramark took over.

Category: Pawtucket
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