The Dallastown Area School Board on Thursday decided it was not "in the food service business" anymore.

In a move that caused tears and hugs afterward outside the high school theater room doorway, the board voted 6-2 to outsource its food service to Chartwells, a national company that serves more than 500 schools.

Chartwells will pay Dallastown $977,000 over five years for the right to be its food service provider, although Dallastown would have to renew the contract each year.

In exchange, Chartwells would take over the operation of the entire food service program, and that means Dallastown cafeteria workers and managers would have to interview for their jobs with Chartwells, who would become their employer, according to several cafeteria workers who said they were recently informed by Chartwells of the plan.

"The students love what they have, and I hope you stay with us," said Jean Linnemans, the high school food service manager, during public comments.

Linnemans said afterward she's worked for Dallastown for 24 years, and teared up at the thought of what's to come now that the board decided not to stay with them.

"My kids, the workers ... they are all good people," she said.

Food service staff even passed out homemade peanut butter candy to the board before the vote.

The workers said they'll likely face a steep wage cut if they stay on. Chartwells officials did not comment on employee compensation or hiring during their presentation to the board before a packed room, but they did say they have been in the schools to see how the cafeterias operate first-hand.


Superintendent Stewart Weinberg said the meal schedules will operate as usual in the fall, and he said he believes most of the staff will be able to retain their jobs.

"I believe we should not be in the food service business. We should be in the education business," Weinberg said.

Board members Don Jasmann and Margaret Ibex voted no, and president Fred Botterbusch was absent. Jasmann said he had concerns whether there really would be a financial gain for the district because of various fees, and that Dallastown's food service program has won many awards. Internal cost savings could have been done instead, he said.

The exact financial benefit to the district was not clear yet, but in general, Dallastown's food service program has operated as budget neutral. A cost hike in meal prices would have been needed to get the in-house program out of the red in upcoming years, Weinberg said. Dallastown also is experiencing the retirement of longtime food services director Sue Ayres, a position the district won't fill.

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