School Chef's $24K Raise Raises Eyebrows

A $24,000 salary raise given to the executive chef of a New Jersey charter school is raising eyebrows.

A $24,000 salary raise given to the executive chef of a New Jersey charter school is raising eyebrows, reports [3] the Philadelphia Inquirer. Michele Pastorello saw his salary rise to $95,000 this school year for overseeing the dining program at the LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden, which has an enrollment of about a thousand. The salary figure for Pastorello considerably exceeds that of similar titles in surrounding districts, even those with enrollments many times that of LEAP Academy.

UPDATE: LEAP Academy and foodservice vendor Metz Culinary Management have both issued statements regarding this matter. They are as follows...

From LEAP Academy: "LEAP Academy is proud of its longstanding success in providing the best education available to the children of Camden.

"Part of that success is borne of its longstanding practice of transparency in its affairs.

"Dr.Gloria Bonilla-Santiago has never hidden her committed relationship with Mr. Pastorello, and any suggestion to the contrary is false.

"Her relationship with him has been properly disclosed in all required ethics filings for many years.

"More fundamentally, Mr. Pastorello is not an employee of the LEAP Academy. His employer is a vendor of LEAP.

"Any questions about his personal employment affairs are more appropriately posed to that employer.

"When that vendor was considered to be engaged by LEAP to provide food services and nutritional education to LEAP’s students, Dr. Santiago properly refrained from voting and recused herself for the very reason that her committed partner might be effected.

"Unlike what has been suggested by media accounts on this matter, Pastorello was not the only employee of the prior food service vendor to be offered the opportunity for employment with the new vendor. All then-existing food service personnel had the right of first refusal for their positions.

Likewise, with the transition to the new food service vendor, the services required by LEAP expanded to a growing student population and an additional facility."

From Metz Culinary Management:

"Mr. Pastorello’s compensation for Fiscal Year 2013 was stipulated in the initial Request For Proposal (RFP) given to Metz Culinary Management and any other food service management company bidding for the LEAP Academy food service account. In that RFP, Mr. Pastorello and two other LEAP Academy employees were required to be retained at stipulated salaries by the approved food service management company. LEAP Academy's RFP stated the following:

"Employees that the FSMC (Food Service Management Company) is required to retain must be retained at the FY (Fiscal Year) 13 (2013) hourly rate/salary plus benefits’

"In this RFP, Mr. Pastorello was noted as a LEAP Academy employee that must be retained as an employee of the approved food service management company at a salary of $95,000, plus benefits, for Fiscal Year 2013. Metz Culinary Management did not have control over Mr. Pastorello’s compensation, or any other employee at LEAP Academy, based on the requirements stipulated in the RFP."