Each Friday I compile a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the news that week and why you should care about them.
Here’s your list for the week of Feb. 19:
1. Employees fired over Black History Month menu
It seems that this comes up every year, but another college is being called out for its Black History Month menu. The menu at New York University (NYU) consisted of barbecued ribs, corn bread, collard greens, and two beverages students would bring into question—Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water. Following student disappointment and questions, NYU’s President Andrew Hamilton released a statement saying the menu, produced by the school’s contractor Aramark, was “inexcusably insensitive.” Hamilton said Aramark would work with student groups to produce such special menus in the future, something that was supposed to happen already. Because Aramark said the two employees who created the menu did not follow that procedure and instead planned the menu on their own, they were fired. Aramark said it would retrain its NYU employees.
2. LA schools gets settlement for cafeteria work
In what has become an extended—and costly—legal battle, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was awarded $855,000 from a Chicago-based company that had been contracted to help rebuild its cafeterias. That amount, however, is just a drop in the bucket: The district has so far won nearly $11 million in settlements and judgements, a number that the Los Angeles Times says could be reduced or increased as still-pending rulings are handed down and an upcoming trial is adjudicated.
The gist of the situation is that LAUSD wanted to address an issue common to many districts across the country: the building of fully functioning cafeterias that can better serve students in today’s dining environment. To that end, the district in 2008 launched its $37 million Café L.A. project to modernize its cafeterias. In the first 18 months of the program, 64 cafeterias were transformed and reopened.
However, issues arose following a district audit that found that several companies had violated contracts “by overcharging for equipment and services, charging for unnecessary equipment that was never purchased and using different, less expensive materials than they had said they would,” according to the Times.
The district sued and six years later, it’s still in litigation. With this month’s $855,000 ruling, LAUSD sees the amount it’s won to date totaling $11 million.
3. District drops out of NSLP
Back in 2012 following the release of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, we saw a number of districts dropping out of the National School Lunch program, citing increased challenges with the new regulations. It’s been several years since we’ve heard of a new dropout, but that’s exactly what the Wentzville School District in Missouri did this week. Wentzville administrators said the program was on target to lose nearly $100,000 this year due to federal mandates on items like whole grains and sodium.
4. Chef leaves fine dining for hospital
This video shares the story of a chef who moved from a five-star fine-dining restaurant to work for a children’s hospital. This is hardly the first time this has happened recently, as a Michelin-starred chef recently joined New York’s Northwell Health.
5. Director fired for stealing gets probation
In a follow-up from an earlier five things column, Greg Lazzell, previously of the Danville school district, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay back $22,800.22 in restitution to the district. Lazzell pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government property between $10,000 and $100,000 and one count of official misconduct. Lazzell was convicted of stealing money from the school lunch program.