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NB looks at private operation of school food service

— The New Bloomfield R-3 School Board Thursday night decided to seek proposals from private firms to operate the school's food service program.

After receiving a recommendation from a committee appointed to study the issue, the board directed Tom Baugh, interim superintendent, to work with the committee to develop a request for proposals from private firms to operate the school's food service.

Several school districts in Missouri, including the North Callaway and Hallsville school districts, have switched to private operation of food service at the schools.

Committee members told the board that all of the private firms contacted were interested in keeping current cafeteria employees but for the most part were not interested in handling the paperwork involved with reduced and free lunch programs. The reduced and free lunches would continue but would be supervised by school district employees.

Committee members studying the proposal said the firms believe their food choices are healthy and the students like the way it is prepared.

The board was told that a decision on whether to approve or reject private operation of the school's food service will be made after evaluating responses to the request for proposals from private firms.

The board also heard a proposal from Baugh asking the board whether they wanted to ban soda and candy sales at all school events. Concern was expressed by some board members and administrators about the loss in revenue if that were instituted. Some soft drink firms offer contracts worth several thousand dollars for exclusive rights to school events, and the school also benefits from concession sales.

No action was taken on that suggestion but the issue will be studied.

Most of the board's attention during the evening centered on efforts by teachers and administrators to improve the school's student achievement test scores.

Annual state MAP tests showed the school was below the state average in test scores in most subjects.

Teachers and administrators went through dozens of graphs and displays to show how each grade ranked. They also followed one grade and showed how it has progressed steadily but in many cases still ranked below state averages.

The 2010 ACT test scores taken by high school students showed improvement for New Bloomfield students over the previous year but still ranked below state and national averages. New Bloomfield students taking the ACT exams had a composite score of 20.2, compared with a statewide average of 21.6 and a nationwide composite score of 21.

New Bloomfield also was compared with composite ACT scores of other schools in Mid-Missouri. Those scores were Russellville, 20.8; Blair Oaks, 22.6; Chamois, 20.9; Eugene, 20.6; Fatima, 22.7; Linn, 20.4; St. Elizabeth, 25.7; and Tuscumbia, 20.6.

Administrators said they contacted St. Elizabeth to learn why their test scores were so much higher than other schools. They said St. Elizabeth was a small school and the scores were based on solid achievement throughout the year. The school also made use of a special program to prepare students to take the test. The preparation did not involve tutoring students in subject matter but only in techniques of taking tests to help improve scores. New Bloomfield also has a teacher volunteering to prep students on taking ACT tests.

Baugh said special time set aside to coach students on how to take tests cannot substitute for knowledge of students of course matter.

Leroy Wade, board president, said encouraging more students to take the ACT tests will be useful because the tests can reveal shortcomings in class instruction that would be valuable to administrators in evaluating curriculum and teaching techniques as well as teaching personnel.

In his report to the board, Baugh said the school's new track finally has been completed and the contractor paid for the work. He said a windstorm had severely damaged the roof of the gymnasium and it will be repaired quickly using insurance money to cover the damage. He said an audit of the school's finances has been completed but the auditor was not able to make it to this meeting but would be at the next meeting to present the audit.

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