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School district apparently eyeing food management service

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Bill Fritcher representing Opaa! Food Management said they provide both hot and cold entrees, and schools can tailor offerings to meet their needs and budgets.

Representatives of a food management company pitched their vision for reshaping school lunch and breakfast offerings at Community Unit School District 7 schools during Monday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Board of Education. Later, however, the head cook at BenGil Elementary School expressed doubts about what the company promised to deliver. “They make it sound like it’s all a gravy train,” said Jackie McKinney. “It’s not.”

No action followed a 20-minute presentation by Bill Fritcher, Business Development Associate, and Angie Eden, a food service worker, from Opaa! Food Management, Inc., Chesterfield, Mo. There was no clear indication whether the board or district administration is leaning toward contracting with the company.

Founded in 1978, Opaa! Provides food management services to more than 800 schools in 250 school districts spread out over seven states. The company serves 21 schools in Illinois, including the nearby Staunton, Litchfield, Jersey and Nokomis school districts. The company claims a 97 percent retention rate among its client schools.

Fritcher, a former administrator in the Neoga school district, said the company emphasizes home-cooked foods made from scratch. Opaa! provides both hot and cold entrees, and schools can tailor offerings to meet their needs and budgets. Hot entrees include items such as roast turkey, meatloaf, cheeseburgers, pizzas and spaghetti. The company also serves a variety of cold sub sandwiches. Again, depending upon the details of its contract with a school district, the company can provide a salad bar, along with fresh fruit.

Breakfast offerings can include hot or cold cereal, waffles, biscuits and gravy, and breakfast burritos. Some client schools offer a “breakfast on the go” option where students can grab a breakfast item during the mid-morning hours of the school day. As part of its service, Opaa! would provide an all-day “Gulp Station” with dispensers of lemonade, iced tea and water.

“There’s a lot of local control over menu items,” Fritcher said. “If a school doesn’t want us serving coffee to students, we don’t serve coffee.”

Fritcher said the school district would continue to set pricing for school lunches and breakfasts, collect payments and control the revenue stream. The district also would continue to own food service equipment and facilities. At a minimum, Opaa! would place it’s own employee as a food service manager, but other food service workers can be either Opaa! employees or employees of the school district. In either case, the school district would have final say over who is allowed to work in the school district.

“You’d have control of who is working in the school and is around your kids,” Fritcher said.

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According to Fritcher, the company emphasizes presentation.

 “We want the food to look good so kids will eat it,” he said. “We strive to make it enjoyable for the kids.”

Client schools submit photos of daily offerings to the home office for approval, Eden said. As an example, she cited an instance when she submitted a photo from Neoga that included broccoli as a side item. The home office said the broccoli looked too brown and demanded it be replaced with fresher produce.

Fritcher said the company employees an executive chef to create recipes and standards for food served to students. The chef has created a number of streaming videos used to train on site staff.

Key to the operation is a computer program for food management. Eden said the program monitors what food the district has in the freezer and pantry, and adjust menus to best utilize resources on hand. The program also provides a portal parents and students can access to see weekly menus.

A food management contract would be subject to state bidding requirements, according to Fritcher. To start the process, the district would create a Request for Proposals to solicit bids. If Opaa! Is the successful bidder, the company would offer a five-year fixed price agreement, renewable on an annual basis. Either party would be able to end the contract upon a 90-day notice.

During a public comment period, McKinney alleged Opaa!’s promises have not matched reality in nearby school districts. The head cook at Litchfield, she pointed out, quit soon after Opaa! took over. Pizzas and some other food items, she said, do not match the company’s claims.

“We were told this is not about the money, it’s about the choices,” she said. “If you want more options, someone needs to tell us.”

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McKinney said she has been employed by the district in food services since 2002. The proposal to hire an outside food management company, she said, comes as “a slap in the face.”

McKinney predicted problems if the district contracts with Opaa!, particularly in the elementary school.

“I don’t see how our kindergarteners are going to be able to carry their own tray and serve themselves,” she said. “They’re going to drop their trays. We get our kids through the serving line in five minutes so they have time to sit down and eat. When they have to make their own tray, how long do you think that’s going to take?”

McKinney also predicted issues with food sanitation when young children with runny noses and/or dirty hands are expected to serve themselves from the food line.

During a public comment period, Jackie McKinney, head cook at BenGil Elementary, alleged Opaa!’s promises have not matched reality in nearby school districts.

McKinney said an outside company cannot be expected to know local students like local food service workers know them.

“I watch for a little boy who comes through my line every day because I know he doesn’t get food at home like he does here,” she said. “We’re here for the kids and I don’t think these people are.”

In a somewhat related matter which could facilitate transitioning to an outside food service, the board accepted with “regret” the retirements of head high school/middle school cook Penny Feeley and GHS/GMS cook Janice Hammann, both effective on June 30.

PERSONNEL

The board took action on a number of personnel issues following an executive session of about one hour.

In separate actions, the board voted unanimously to rehire the following fourth-year teachers and grant them tenure for the 2024-25 school year: Nikki Jenner, Katie Lievers, Alex Newton, Pete Visintin and Jacob West.

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The following non-tenured staff were hired for the 2024-25 school year: school nurse Rachel Bouillon, fifth grade teacher Radeana Gentzyel, speech pathologist Kaylee Collins, special education teacher Jaiden Braundmeier, kindergarten teacher Jessica Yeager, fist grade teacher Sydney Owsley, band teacher Brad Taulbee, chorus teacher Ben McCullough, Tim Biggs, special education teacher Cory Bonstead, and Dalton Barnes.

On a motion by Peyton Bernot, seconded by Mark Hayes, the board rehired the following tenured teachers for 2024-25: Lorraine Strutner, Jody Dunn, Melissa Bussmann, Tracy Hostettler, Darrick Urban, Kara Saracco, Kelly Lyons, Holly Nejmanowski, Jennifer Parker, Anastasia Hobaugh, Cate Plovich, Amy Price, Nickie Barrett, Jessi Luketich, Mindy Savant, Karissa Smith, Beth Sees, Valerie Jubelt, Carrie Scott, Dana Tieman, Marcia Johns, Colleen Favre, Celia Jubelt, Jamie Schmidt, Nancy Schmidt, Lori Emmons, Vanessa Barrett, Amy Geddes, Lisa Ballinger, Amber Allan, Kim Henderson, Christina Blevins, Chase Peterson, Jessica Kelly, Tammy Garde, Nate Heinrich’s, Casey Edgerton, Kyle Lamar, Stephanie Wilson, Elizabeth Thackery, Shanna Conner, Matthew Browner, Jeremy Smith, Rachelle Prough, Jarrod Herron, Jill Stole, Korben Clark, Kayla Wills, Nikki Browner, Kevin McNichols, Katie Orange, Robert Macias, Casey Sholtis, Jennifer Brown, Jeff Nelhs, Mark Goldasich, Troy Barker, Michelle Smith, Holley McFarland, Michael Bertagnolli, Mary Schuette, Nichole Stoecker, Amy Goldasich, David Edgerton, Ashlee Gibbs, Stuart Ringer, Kelly Bully, Whitney Page and Stephanie Bray.

The board accepted “with regret” the retirement of BenGil Elementary teacher Dana Tieman, effective at the end of the 2027-28 school year. The board also accepted “with regret” the resignation for purposes of retirement of GMS paraprofessional  Ella May Roemer, effective at the end of the 2024 fiscal year, and posted the position as vacant.

Board members accepted the resignation of high school paraprofessional Darian Gill, and posted the position as vacant. The board also accepted Gill’s resignation at the GHS/GMS cheerleading coach and posted that position as vacant.

Board members unanimously agreed to post vacancies for the following summer school positions: high school math, English and drivers’ education; middle school math, English and science; and six elementary positions. Additionally, the board posted two summer school food service positions.

The board accepted “with regret” the resignation of long-time GHS head women’s basketball coach Kevin Gray, and posted the position as vacant. The board also accepted the resignation of Korbin Clark as GMS seventh-grade basketball coach and posted the position as vacant.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Elizabeth Eaker as a volunteer assistant dance coach, pending verification of certification and a background check. In separate actions, the board agreed to appoint Foley Seferi and James Bryant a volunteer assistant high school football coaches, pending verification of certification and a background check. 

By a unanimous vote, the board accepted the resignation of district custodian Owen Parker, and posted the position as vacant. The board also voted to post vacancies for two full-route bus drivers for the 2024-25 school year, and hired Billie Bowles as a substitute bus driver, pending verification of certification and a background check.

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REPAVING

The board awarded a $62,524 contract to DeLaurent Construction Co., Inc., Wilsonville, to repave five district parking lots. DeLaurent was the low bidder for the project. The contract will be paid from proceeds of a $1.6 million alternate revenue bond sale for capital projects.

Supt. Shane Owsley reported that he is starting to gather estimates for other upcoming projects to be underwritten with bond revenue, including a project to refinish the high school gym floor, a project to reline the all-weather track and a major HVAC project.

SURPLUS WEIGHT ROOM EQUIPMENT

On Owsley’s recommendation, the board accepted a list of surplus weight room equipment and agreed to offer the equipment for sale via sealed bids. The equipment, which includes stationary bikes, running machines, free weights, benches, dumbbells and racks, was replaced with new equipment as part of a recently completed project to renovate and re-equip the weight room.

EARLY GRADUATION REQUESTS

During a District Focus segment, the board recognized high school women’s basketball coach Kevin Gray, who is retiring after a career of 16 seasons. Kevin is pictured with his wife, Elaine.

On a motion by Bill Carter, seconded by Weye Schmidt, the board unanimously approved early graduation requests for Maria Alger, Eliana Barrios-Madison, Owen Baugh, Gage Bonds, Abby Carter, John Q. Halterman, Eva Hidden, Felicia Lambert, Emma Luckshis, Ashley Markulakis, McKenna Montoro, Kaden Reiffer, Abigail Sharp, Jayden Stangle, Cooper Wentler, Ashton Whitlow and Avery Young. The students will be allowed to graduate at the end of their eleventh year of high school at the end of the current school year, provided all graduation requirements have been met.

DISTRICT FOCUS

During a District Focus segment, the board recognized high school women’s basketball coach Kevin Gray, who is retiring after a career of 16 seasons. High School Principal Jill Rosentreter noted that Gray led this year’s team to the Sectional Tournament in Beardstown after winning their first regional championship since 2012. The team also won its first County Tournament since 2002, and celebrated 26 wins—the most ever.

During the Carlinville Rotary’s All-Star Game, Gray was named Rotary’s Coach of the Year.

“On behalf of CUSD 7 and all you former players, we express much gratitude for your many years of service, dedication, leadership, wisdom and professional demeanor on and off the court,” Rosentreter told Gray.

Also during the District Focus, a group of fifth graders told the board about their recent field trip to Busch Stadium, where they learned about practical math applications and other subjects.

OTHER ACTION

In other action, the board:

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  • Gave final approval to the 2024-25 school calendar, calling for the first day of school attendance on Aug. 14 with the last day of school set for May 29, or earlier if no emergency days are used.
  • Approved a schedule of board meeting dates for the coming year. The board will meet in executive session at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month with the open session beginning at 7 p.m. The December meeting is set one week earlier on Dec. 16 to avoid conflict with the winter break.
  • Awarded the annual bid to supply fuel to low bidder M & M Service Co., Carlinville.
  • Voted to renew the district’s annual membership in the Illinois High School Association.
  • Rescheduled the April board meeting from Monday, April 22, to Tuesday, April 23, to avoid a conflict.

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Progressive Club to celebrate 90th anniversary

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Benld Entreprise

The Wilsonville Progressive Club will celebrate and host a 90 year Anniversary Party on Saturday, May 11. The party will include a catered dinner, a live band, and fireworks.

Doors will open at 2 pm with a catered dinner being served at 4 pm.  The Shane Kessinger Experience (live band) will play at 5 pm, and a grand fireworks display will be held at dusk.

The Progressive Club was originally established in 1934 by the Progressive Miners and was located on the northwest side of Wilsonville’s main street. The Club moved to their new building in January of 1949 and today this is still the current location at 212 Wilson Street in Wilsonville.

Wilsonville was founded in 1917 when Superior Coal Co. Mine No. 4 was sunk and this was the most modern mine in the Superior field. At that time, the little settlement which grew up around the mine was called Wilson. One day a worker paused and asked, “What are we going to name this town?” President Wilson was in office, thus the town was then and there named Wilson until 1919 when it was incorporated and the name expanded to Wilsonville.

The Wilsonville Progressive Club is operated and maintained by an elected panel of trustees and loyal members.  The Club is open to the public and membership is always welcome.  The large outdoor covered pavilion and manicured grassy side lot offer an attractive and convenient venue for any event along with inside facilities. 

If you are interested in renting for any kind of event, call 217-835-3122 during open hours which are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 4 pm to close, and Sunday doors open at 2 pm.  Every Sunday afternoon at 4 pm is the Queen of Hearts drawing and the Club is on Facebook as well.

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Gillespie Police Report: April 14-20, 2024

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SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of East Oak Street in reference to a dog bite.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of Abba Street to pick up a found item.

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of East Maple Street in reference to a domestic dispute.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Chestnut Street in reference to a burglary.

An officer was out in the 200 block of North Macoupin Street in reference to a motorist assist.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of Schmidt Street in reference to a 911 call.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of South 1st Street in Benld in reference to a domestic dispute.

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An officer was dispatched to the 500 block of Broadway Street in reference to a medical call.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of South Illinois Street in Benld in reference to illegal burning.

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of South 5th Street in Benld in reference to an animal complaint.

An officer was dispatched to the 500 block of Horizon Street in reference to a 911 call.

MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2024

An officer was dispatched to Gillespie Police Department to speak with a male in reference to a theft in the 100 block of South Main Street in Benld.

An officer was dispatched to the 500 block of West Osie Street in reference to a violation of an order of protection.

Nicholas O. Landolt, 36, of Gillespie was arrested on multiple warrants including one out of St. Clair County for possession for methamphetamine, a second one out of Montgomery County for failure to appear for driving while license was revoked, and a third out of Macoupin County for failure to appear for methamphetamine.

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An officer was dispatched to East Walnut Street in reference to a suspicious noise.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of Abba Street in reference to a juvenile issue.

An officer was dispatched to the 500 block of Broadway Street in reference to a medical alarm.

An officer spoke with a male at Gillespie Police Department in reference to a theft in the 200 block of West Oak Street.

An officer spoke with a female at Gillespie Police Department in reference to criminal damage to her property.

An officer spoke with a male at Gillespie Police Department in reference to identity theft.

An officer spoke with a female in the 100 block of North 7th Street in Benld in reference to a neighbor dispute.

An officer spoke with a female at Gillespie Police Department in reference to a violation of an order of protection.

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An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of Southern Street in reference to a suspicious person.

TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 1100 block of South Macoupin Street in reference to criminal damage to property.

An officer was dispatched to the 900 block of South Macoupin Street in reference to a domestic dispute.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of East Walnut Street in reference to criminal trespass to property.

An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of North 7th Street in Benld in reference to criminal trespass to property. Melissa J. Hughes, 49, of Benld was arrested on a Montgomery County warrant for theft/larceny.

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of East Maple Street in reference to criminal trespass to property.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of Francis Street in reference to a traffic crash.

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An officer spoke with a female at Gillespie Police Department in reference to a civil issue in the 700 block of Rose Street in Benld.

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of South 5th Street in Benld in reference to a domestic dispute.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of East Pine Street to assist the Department of Children and Family Services.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of Broadway Street in reference to reckless driving.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of East Central Avenue in Benld in reference to a 911 call.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2024

An officer spoke with a female at Gillespie Police Department in reference to fraud in the 200 block of South Macoupin.

An officer was dispatched to a business in the 500 block of East Elm Street in reference to criminal trespass to property.

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An officer was dispatched to Route 4 and Staunton Road in reference to reckless driving.

An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of Gillespie Street in reference to unwanted solicitors.

An officer was dispatched to High Street and Gillespie Street in reference to a suspicious noise.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of High Street in reference to unwanted solicitors.

An officer spoke with a male at Gillespie Police Department in reference to a civil standby.

An officer was flagged down at Elm Street and Clinton Street and spoke with an individual in reference to a civil issue.

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of Mt. Olive Road in Eagarville in reference to a domestic dispute.

An officer spoke with a male at Gillespie Police Department in reference to a suspicious circumstance.

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THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2024

An officer was dispatched to a business in the 400 block of South Macoupin Street in reference to a panic alarm sounding.

An officer was dispatched to the 1300 block of South Second Street in reference to a civil standby.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Osie Street in reference to a dog bite.  Heather L. Kimberlin, 47, of Gillespie was issued a citation for dog at large.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Baker Street in reference to a juvenile issue.

An officer was out with a suspicious vehicle in the alley in the 500 block of Park Avenue.

An officer was dispatched to East Walnut and South Main Street in Benld in reference to reckless driving.

An officer was dispatched to the Veterans Memorial Park in Benld in reference to a suspicious vehicle that had been parked there for a couple of days.

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Gillespie Police Department was requested for traffic control by the Gillespie Fire Department for a fire on Eagarville Road.

FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of East Walnut Street in reference to a traffic crash.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of South Street in Gillespie in reference to a juvenile issue.

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of Litchfield Road in East Gillespie in reference to a suspicious person at the storage units. Kathy J. Henderson, 49, of Sawyerville was arrested on a Macoupin County warrant for failure to appear for bad checks

An officer initiated a traffic stop at Maple Street and Macoupin Street. Kenny L. Fults, 18, of Belleville was issued a citation for possession of cannabis.

An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of Mt. Olive Road in Eagarville in reference to civil standby.

An officer was dispatched to the 500 block of West Burton Street in reference to an animal complaint.

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SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 2024

An officer was dispatched to the 700 block of Abba Street in reference to a domestic dispute.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of North 7th Street in Benld in reference to criminal trespassing. Timothy J. Dalpozzo, 57, of Benld was arrested for criminal trespassing to residence and a Macoupin County warrant for criminal trespassing to a residence.

An officer initiated a traffic stop at South Street and Chestnut Street and charges are pending crime lab results.

An officer was dispatched to the 100 block of East Maple Street in reference to reckless driving.

An officer was dispatched to Macoupin Street and Elm Street in reference to reckless driving.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of Osie Street in reference to a dog at large.

An officer was dispatched to the 600 block of North 8th Street in Benld in reference to medical assist.

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An officer was dispatched to the 200 block of West Spruce Street in reference to a suspicious person.

An officer was dispatched to the 400 block of West Baker Street in reference to criminal trespass to property.

An officer was dispatched to the 300 block of Park Street in Benld in reference to a medical call.

An officer spoke with a male at Gillespie Police Department in reference to an ordinance issue.

All subjects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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HSHS St. Francis Hospital offers volunteer opportunities for feens

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LITCHFIELD, Ill. — HSHS St. Francis Hospital is offering service opportunities to area teens this summer through the 2024 Junior Volunteer Program. Applications are being accepted now through May 1.

Applicants must be high school students maintaining at least a “C” average, be a minimum of 14 years of age by June 1 and be willing to volunteer at least two hours per week during the summer program. Junior volunteers will perform a variety of duties in various hospital departments. 

Registration materials are available on the hospital’s website volunteer page at https://www.hshs.org/st-francis/community/volunteer.

All participants in the program will be required to present proof of immunizations for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and Varicella (chicken pox). An additional requirement includes attendance at a hospital orientation.

A limited number of positions will be available. For more information, contact HSHS St. Francis Hospital at 217-324-8200.

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