(UPDATED COVERAGE June 26) The union whose grievance prompted the removal of salad bars from six schools in Monterey, Calif., expects to reach an agreement soon with district officials on their return.
“We meet July 10 and we should have something settled by then,” said Robert Cummings, Chapter 93 president for the Classified School Employees Association.
At issue was the number of extra hours needed to prepare, stock, supervise and clean a lunchroom with a salad bar. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District funded 2.5 extra hours, Cummings said, but at larger schools in the group, staffers said it wasn’t adequate.
“We kept telling the district that our people are working through their breaks and lunches to get all this stuff ready to go for the kids,” Cummings said. “We supported the salad bars 100%, but we can’t have our workers breaking our contract or state law. The district didn’t follow through, so we had to tell them to stop it until we could come up with a settlement.”
The salad bars were removed in early May, about a month before the school year ended. Dole Food Co. donated five salad bars to the district in September.
The extra hours sufficed for lunchrooms serving about 125 students, Cummings said, but were problematic beyond that.
“At a smaller school that was enough, because you’re dealing with fewer kids and the lunch period is shorter,” he said. “But at a larger school your lunch period takes longer because you’ve got so many kids. You’re going through the salad bar faster; you’re trying to restock it. There just wasn’t enough time.”
The agreement will probably include an extra lunchroom employee for up to 4 hours a day to work on the salad bar, he said.
The union unfairly received bad publicity for the removal of the salad bars, Cummings said.
“Everybody’s making it look like we’re trying to stop this, but if the district had done it the right way the first time, we wouldn’t be at this point,” he said.
Dan Albert, the district’s associate superintendent of business services, didn’t welcome the publicity either. He, too, expects an agreement soon.
“This has been blown way out of proportion,” he said. “We just moved the salad bar from the Dole serviced containers in our cafeteria to our serving line. Kids got the same products.”
“It took an additional worker to man the salad bars in the cafeteria,” Albert said. “We decided it was better to pull them out two weeks before the end of the year and talk to the union. Everybody thought we were canceling, but it was just temporary.”
Assuming the issue gets resolved, the Monterey Peninsula district will start the coming school year with six salad bars and have them installed in all 11 elementary schools throughout the year, he said. Secondary schools, which are undergoing lunchroom redesigns, will have salad bars the following year.
Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin, vice president of community development at Taylor Farms, welcomes the prospect of a resolution. She has raised funds for salad bars through the Grower-Shipper Association Foundation, Salinas, Calif.
“The superintendent and the nutrition director are extremely confident the salad bars will be reinstated,” she said. “(The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District) has made a commitment and they’re actually going to expand the program.”
The clash, D’Arrigo-Martin said, put salad bars in the spotlight.
“It proved that salad bars are important to the schools,” she said. “The kids were upset, the parents were upset. They want them.”
“They are wildly successful,” Albert said. “The kids like them a lot.”