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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 22, 2007

School lunches without cash

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – Keeping track of cash can be a daunting task for a business. School districts are no different.

The Voorheesville School District is discussing a program to better track monetary transactions in the district cafeterias.

The program, called Nutrikids, is a point of sale program, or electronic cash register system.

The new system, if approved, would allow parents to put money into their children’s accounts online, even with stipulations about what they can eat, specifying "no snacks," for example, if they wish, Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell explained to the board.

Students would each be assigned a pin number that would give them access to their account, which includes the student’s photograph, she said. It may also have notes about food allergies the student has, she added.

"We also hope to provide options in the future for parents to purchase yearbooks, and to pay for their co-curricular expenses using this system," Superintendent Linda Langevin said. "The school lunch program would be installed first and piloted in order to assess student and parent satisfaction before we branch out," she said.

Paul Hognestad, a district parent, spoke up, asking the board, "What’s wrong with handing your kids some money" and wishing them well""

The school lunch program is "an arena in which we’ve had major difficulties," Vice President C. James Coffin said.

In an attempt to pull the lunch program out of a deficit, the district revamped it in 2005, bringing in Tim Mulligan as the new head chef.

Mulligan offers tasty, nutritious meals, and has even reduced the number of times he serves pizza, he told The Enterprise earlier.

"School lunch sales are up 11 percent" which is huge," Winchell told the board.

Nutrikids "will allow convenience and tracking of our cash receipts in a systematic way," Langevin told The Enterprise.

Students could still use cash to pay for their lunches, Winchell said, but Nutrikids would cut back on cash flow.

The system would not affect staffing, and would be eligible for state aid at 52 percent, Winchell said.

Speeding things up

Nutrikids "began in 1989," said Roy Olson, the northeast regional account manager for the company. "Our first product was a menu analysis," he said.

The point of sale program was launched in 2000. More than 935 school districts nationwide use the program, Olson said.

The goal of the program, he said, is to speed up the lines. "Students that eat do better in school."

The system uses overt identification, Olson said. Student lunch costs are categorized as paid, free, or reduced-price, based on the financial status of the family, he said.

The Nutrikids point of sale system has the ability to identify what type of lunch each student qualifies for, he said. "No one knows whether they are free or paid."

The program also allows for the child’s parents to access their account on-line, and "see what their children are purchasing," Olson said.

It has a "database tracking system," which also allows the school district to track what’s sold, reducing waste, he said.

The program "benefits not only the administration," Olson told The Enterprise. "The parents do benefit, and certainly, the students do too."

Winchell will bring a resolution to the board regarding the Nutrikids system either at its special budget meeting on March 5, or the regular meeting on March 12.

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the school board,

– Accepted an athletic equipment donation from Michael Fluster of a universal gym and dumbbell rack at an estimated value of $3,000;

– Approved amendments to both the expense reimbursement, and the managerial confidential benefit policies;

– Approved the first reading of the fiscal whistleblower policy, in which there was no previous policy;

– Appointed Fiscal Advisors & Marketing, Incorporated as the financial advisor to the district for the $4.8 million bond issue, at a rate of $7,500;

– Allowed the district to rent a safe deposit box from Key Bank. Renting a safe deposit box complies with the Computer Disaster Recovery Plan approved by the board at its June 12, 2006 meeting. A back-up tape will be placed in the safe deposit box each month, as well as in the Elementary School vault. The tapes can be used to recreate school data in the event of a disaster. The cost is $90 per year for the rental;

– Approved standardizing the door locking system at both the elementary school and the middle and high school to Sonitrol Access Systems. The system is now eligible for aid through BOCES. The annual cost for the system is around $1,100, with a cost of $1,000 per door to install Sonitrol;

– Entered into executive session for the purpose of discussing current litigation and the employment history of particular individuals, and negotiations. After nearly three hours, the board approved the appointment of Lauren Smith as a long-term substitute music teacher through June 23, 2007 at a prorated salary of $40,050; and also approved seven coaching appointments. Hank Czerwinski will coach varsity baseball; Matthew Fiato will coach varsity softball; Terrence Ryan will coach junior varsity softball; Thomas Kurkjian will coach boys varsity tennis; Steven Relyea will coach varsity track; Philip Carducci will be the varsity track assistant; and Kyle Turski will coach junior varsity baseball;

– Announced that a special budget meeting will be held on Monday, March 5 at 7 p.m. in the High School Cafeteria to discuss revenue projections and tax impact projections; and

– At a special Feb. 15 board meeting, the board approved an agreement with the Voorheesville Teachers Association for a local retirement incentive for teachers.

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