Jeff Mills, nutrition services director for the Washington, DC, Public Schools, has resigned in a dispute with DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson over outsourcing the school meals program, reports the Washington Post. Mills reportedly wanted to bring food service operations in-house while Henderson preferred to delegate to an outside entity with expertise in a service that she does not consider part of the district's core educational function.
Mills’s departure came less than a month after a D.C. Council hearing at which the financial effectiveness of the contract with Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality was questioned by an audit report.
Mills, a former New York City restaurateur with no school foodservice experience, had been hired in 2010 by then-D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to overhaul the school meal program by eliminating processed foods and incorporating more local produce and fresh, made-from-scratch meals. Those goals were being met, but at the cost of greater program deficits, which was at the center of the dispute with the contractor.
The district cancelled its deal with Chartwells Thompson after the end of the last school year but the company won the bid for the new contract, which incorporates modified terms that substitute a fixed-price-meal reimbursement structure for the previous cost reimbursement model. The meal program continues to lose money under this deal as well, though reportedly somewhat less than under the previous one.