Yesterday was my daughter's first day at NOVA alternative high school. She has been looking forward to going to school there ever since the start of the year and her first day did not disappoint.
Except in one area. Students at NOVA have been able to buy healthy vegetarian meals cooked on site, but the NOVA kitchen is closed right now. The weird thing is that no one seems to be able to tell me why. I have some folks saying that it is a liability issue - that there's no insurance in case any one is harmed either in the kitchen or by the food. Some folks say that it's a union issue - Local 609 demands that only union members provide nutrition services on campus. Some folks say that it has to do with the person who runs the kitchen getting certified to provide CTE classes and credits (students work in the kitchen as a Occ Ed class). But no one can actually explain anything to my satisfaction.
I'm trying to get information about the situation, but it has been surprisingly difficult. No one is willing to talk. Everyone refers me to someone else.
I have scraps of information, but I can't make the puzzle pieces fit together.
Is it all about liability? But doesn't the PTSA have some kind of liability coverage through the national organization? If not, then doesn't every PTA event have the same liability? Don't we have the same exposure at every PTA sponsored event involving food? Is it different because the person is an employee instead of a volunteer? As for the possibility of a student being injured, doesn't the District have coverage for the students while they are in school? Why does the liability coverage come through the union? That seems weird and not entirely credible. I mean, if you were injured in a school kitchen you would sue the District, not the union, right?
I haven't heard anything clear about the CTE issue.
You might wonder why not just have the District take over the kitchen and have the chef join the union. While there are some benefits of union membership, there are costs as well. For one thing, the NOVA chef would be the least senior person in the union. That would put her at the top of the list for lay-offs. The union's seniority rules would also allow any more senior person (and EVERYONE is more senior) to take her job assignment. Also, apparently, the union has some opposition to their members acting as instructors for CTE credit.
You might wonder how all of this was done before. Before this year the entire operation was completely unknown to the District. I know. That seems incredible, doesn't it? How could it be that no one in the Child Nutrition Services department noticed that the District was not providing Nutrition Services to a school of 300 students? The whole thing defies belief all the way around the track.
Let us, for the moment, presume good intentions on everyone's part. The resolution that everyone would like would be for the NOVA chef to be able to provide healthy, vegetarian meals (and a vegan alternative) cooked on site and for students to be able to earn CTE credits by working in the kitchen with the chef. How can we make that happen? Maybe the District's Child Nutrition Services accepts control, but doesn't change anything, and the chef joins the union, but the union allows whatever waivers are necessary for her to remain in place and teach. Maybe the chef continues to work under the auspices of the PTSA and some liability insurance is found. It doesn't really matter how it is done, so long as it is done.
So let's get the parties into a room and make it happen. I'm hungry.