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Aramark Likely to Return Next Year for District 308 Food Service

Apr 25, 2014 03:44AM ● Published by Steven Jack

Photo courtesy of Aramark- School District #308's Foodservice Provider Facebook page

Oswego School District 308 is not likely to pick the lowest cost when it comes to its one-year 2014-15 food service contract.

And according to administrators, there's a reason for that. 

Aramark, which has been serving school lunches in District 308 for the last five years, has been deemed by officials to be the lowest "responsible" bidder, according to Associate Superintendent Paul O'Malley. Several companies went through the extensive bid process mandated by the state to try and win District 308's business.

Representatives of two of the companies (OrganicLife and Chartwells) whose bids were lower than Aramark's by at least $60,000 appeared before the School Board last week in protest of the recommended higher bid.

Joe Kreeger, of OrganicLife, said it was his understanding that his company was eliminated from consideration because they refused to provide financial statements required in the bid. Kreeger said OrganicLife is a privately held company that does not release such data.

"Our financial stability has never been a problem or concern to the hundreds of Illinois schools we serve," Kreeger said. "Due to our stability, our lack of audited financial statements should not concern this board."

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Gene Sanchez, regional vice president of Chartwells and a District 308 parent, said he believed administrators were using "flawed" information in disqualifying his company based on previous contracts in other districts. Chartwells was previously the food service provider in both Indian Prairie School District 204 and Chicago Public Schools. The company was not re-awarded those contracts.

District 308's bid qualifications call for any responsible bidder to not have had a contract terminated within the past three years. Sanchez said the two previous contracts were not terminated, rather they simply were not renewed. Based on that information, he said Chartwells should be reinstated as a responsible bidder.

Chartwells had been serving meals at CPS for 13 years, but a new $97 million contract was awarded to Aramark in 2013. Aramark also took over food service in District 204.

O'Malley said it is the Illinois State Board of Education that calls for strict requirements in the realm of "responsible" bidders in food service contracts. In fact, the ISBE is heavily involved in the entire process, and suggested 22 changes in the district's qualification documents before the contract was even let out for bid, O'Malley said.

Without specifying which companies he was referring to, O'Malley said a lack of financial documents and substantiation from provided references led to the recommendation for Aramark. 

"We have to make sure in a world-class system everyone can meet our expectations," he said.

All bidders, including Aramark, provided bids that will result in at least a $400,000 savings for the district next year. In its latest bid, Aramark cut its annual fee by about $436,000. A fact that Sanchez said board members should note.

"That means that for the past five years they've been overcharging this district," he said. "Consider that when considering who your partner will be going forward."

The School Board is expected to vote on the 2014-15 food services contract when it meets Monday at 7 p.m. in the community room at Oswego East High school.
Education, Today, News oswego district 308 aramark chartwells organiclife

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