Chartwells-Thompson Response to Washington DC Public Schools Charges

Text of the Chartwells-Thompson Response to Washington DC Public Schools Charges

Over the past four years, Chartwells School Dining Services/Thompson Hospitality Services LLC’s (Chartwells/Thompson) has helped DC Public Schools (DCPS) implement a school foods program with the highest food quality and nutrition standards in the city's history. Over that time, Chartwells/Thompson has been dedicated to building a strong partnership with DCPS and providing services that bring value to the city.

Before contracting with Chartwells/Thompson, the DC Public School foodservice program was in dire health. The program was losing millions of dollars each year, all while serving schoolchildren pre-packaged, unappetizing meals.

Over the past four years, Chartwells/Thompson has helped DCPS to significantly reduce losses in its foodservice program and brought fresh, healthy meals to District students. Over the past year, DCPS officials have been vocal about its satisfaction with Chartwells/Thompson, both financially and operationally, under our new contract that was entered into July, 2012.

Additionally, Chartwells/Thompson has provided $4.3 million in interest-free investment to the District including $1.7 million to repair, replace or purchase food service equipment, $2.5 million for re-designs of food service areas, and has provided increased training for all of our 493 employees.

Recently, we fully cooperated with DCPS on an audit of the school system’s foodservice vendors. We are deeply disappointed with the highly-flawed report released upon conclusion of the audit.

Not only was the audit process flawed, but it contains a series of fundamentally inaccurate information. Furthermore, when provided with credible revisions, corrections and comments, the auditors consistently made the clear decision to disregard pertinent input from Chartwells/Thompson. Some of the most serious errors of the audit are:

• The audit report was prepared by unqualified auditors who had no prior experience with food service contracts and thus lacked knowledge of basic concepts of the business.

• The audit report reached conclusions that cannot be reconciled with Chartwells/Thompson's contemporaneous documentation. Chartwells/Thompson has been successfully audited many times by nationally recognized auditors with no findings of deficiencies remotely close than those alleged by the DC audit.

The auditors agreed to rely only on a sample of contract documentation to protect the confidentiality of Chartwells/Thompson's pricing, but then claimed they lacked documentation they previously had agreed not to review.

The document attempts to negatively depict Chartwells/Thompson as an irresponsible and reluctant partner of DCPS and the District, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Furthermore, absent from the December 20, 2012 DC Council hearing on DCPS foodservice vendors was the tremendous improvement that Chartwells/Thompson helped DCPS make to its program both financially and programmatically.  Further, statements made before the DC Council mentioned increases in costs of the dining service program, but those statements failed to take into account the primary reason for cost increases – the implementation of the DC Healthy Schools Act as well as other DCPS specific requirements.

Meanwhile, although the audit report pertained to the prior dining services contract, DPCS and Chartwells/Thompson have since entered into a new agreement under which the dining service program is operated on a fixed price meal basis, and thus analysis of the prior contract, which was structured on a cost reimbursable basis, is not relevant to the current agreement.

Chartwells/Thompson remains committed to supporting DCPS and working with the city, parents and students to provide a cost-efficient dining service program that provides healthy meals to DC public schools.

UPDATE ADDRESSING ISSUE OF DC SCHOOLS CONTINUING TO LOSE MONEY ON THE NEW CONTRACT: Chartwells-Thompson charges a contracted fixed price per meal, so any claims that DCPS is losing money on each meal it serves would need to be addressed by the school system directly. It is also important to note that Chartwells-Thompson responded to a DCPS-prepared Request For Proposal and we were awarded the contract in July 2012  based up on our submission.