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Attorney General Cuomo Announces $20 Million Settlement With Food Services Company [Sodexo] For Overcharging New York Schools

NEW YORK, N.Y. (July 21, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today a

$20 million settlement with food services provider Sodexo for overcharging 21 New York school districts as well as the SUNY system.

An Attorney General investigation found that the company promised to provide goods at cost but failed to acknowledge rebates from suppliers, resulting in illegal overcharges to the schools. The investigation was sparked by former employees of Sodexo under the New York False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to come forward to disclose wrongdoing without fear of retribution. The settlement was unsealed in Federal Court in Massachusetts and is the largest monetary settlement under the Act that does not involve Medicaid funds.

The 21 schools and the SUNY system contracted with Sodexo to provide food services, vending and facilities services. An investigation by Attorney General Cuomo’s Office determined that from September 1, 2004 through August 31, 2009, Sodexo received significant rebates from its suppliers without acknowledging or passing the savings on to these schools — in violation of the contracts, as well as state and federal laws.

“This company cut sweetheart deals with suppliers and then denied taxpayer-supported schools the benefits,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The state and federal regulations regarding such contracts exist to protect taxpayers, and I thank the whistleblowers for having the courage to bring this to our attention.”

The 21 K-12 schools participate in the New York State Education Department’s Child Nutrition Programs and the National School Lunch Program, which require that rebates, credits and discounts be credited to the schools. On average, Sodexo received 14 percent rebates from its suppliers…

Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation has revealed that it is common practice within the food service industry for service providers like Sodexo to leverage their size and market dominance to obtain rebates from vendors that supply food products, equipment and supplies. The investigation continues to examine the rebating practices of other large, multi-national corporate providers of food service and facilities management to taxpayer-funded organizations within New York State. The Attorney General’s Office urges individuals with knowledge of related conduct to contact the Public Integrity Bureau at
212-416-8090 or public.integrity@oag.state.ny.us.

50 more schools get privatized building engineers

Catalyst Chicago, By Caroline Spiezio, May 25, 2016

  

William Iacullo, President

Local 143 Engineers

 

Chicago School Board members unanimously voted to

privatize building engineers in almost 50 schools, potentially putting engineers out of work and giving more control over school maintenance to two companies that principals have widely criticized for two years.

 

District officials have said the additions to existing contracts with Aramark and SodexoMAGIC are cost neutral and touted the change as a way to give principals a single “point of contact” for supervising engineers and custodial staff.

 

But critics worry the plan will exacerbate maintenance problems at schools, cost the district more in the long term and cause problems for the municipal pension fund by reducing the number of employees paying in.

 

“No privatization scheme ever worked out with public money,” said William Iacullo, president of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143, to the board at Wednesday’s regular meeting. “You’re giving public money to a private company to make money.” …Iacullo and other critics warn that CPS and schools will end up in worse shape. When Aramark first took over some janitorial services in 2014, principals widely complained of dirty schools and a lack of janitorial staff. In its first year, the contract left CPS with a bill $22 million over budget.

 

Under the amended contract, Aramark will provide engineering services to 18 of the schools in which in it already provides custodians. Engineers’ jobs include maintaining heating and cooling systems, fixing windows, sealing leaky pipes and mowing lawns, while custodians perform cleaning and other janitorial duties.

 

SodexoMAGIC, which already provides engineers and custodians at 33 pilot “integrated facilities management” CPS schools, will also provide these services at an additional 30. (See a list of all impacted schools here.)

 

The district says no current engineers will be laid off, as all schools that are part of the newly extended pilot are understaffed or have an engineer who will retire at the end of the school year. The salaries and benefits of 50 or so engineers currently costs CPS about $5.8 million.

 

In 2014, Aramark was awarded a $260 million contract, while SodexoMAGIC—owned by basketball superstar-turned-businessman Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a major contributor to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election campaign—had a contract worth $80 million.

 

CPS is still at the beginning of an RFP to do “integrated facilities management” throughout the system—essentially privatizing all custodial and building engineering staff sometime in 2018. The current Sodexo and Aramark contracts are up next February.

 

“The results of the initial pilot have shown us that the IFM model has the potential to improve facility services without increasing costs, and we will evaluate the modified pilot to determine if a larger transition to IFM is warranted,” CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement.

 

Adding a middle-man, losing pension funds…

Outgoing Chicago Principals and Administrators Association President Clarice Berry pointed out that bringing in private companies only adds an unnecessary middle-man to maintenance and janitorial work. “[Principals] want cleaner schools, and we had that before Aramark, when custodians reported to engineers and engineers reported to principals,” she said.

 

There are currently just over 500 building engineers at CPS. Most high schools have two, while many elementary schools share one engineer or have only one working full-time.

Iacullo said he repeatedly pointed out the high cost of privatizing engineers and management during contract negotiations with CPS in recent weeks, but was told that privatization was about increasing efficiency, not saving money.

 

The engineers union was so opposed to the deal that it agreed to cut jobs, eliminate a 7-percent pension pick-up by the district and forego raises for two years instead. But CPS forged ahead anyway and the union’s contract expires next month.

 

“They don’t seem to care what we say,” Iacullo said earlier. “It’s disheartening. They just want to go ahead with privatization and not even a generous offer from us can stop them.”

 

One of Iacullo’s greatest concerns is the impact that increasing privatization could have on pensions. As more engineers become privatized, fewer are public employees paying into the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago.

 

In a letter earlier this month to Anthony Clancy, Local 143’s pension representative, the municipal fund’s executive director James Mohler said that the total amount of lost contributions could reach around $7.3 million a year if CPS privatizes all building engineers.

 

Mohler’s letter also pointed out that privatizing may lead more CPS engineers to retire earlier than they typically would, if eligible—putting further financial strain on the fund. If at least half chose this option, it could cost the fund an additional $120 million over 10 years. As a result, the pension fund would be stuck paying massive retirement expenses without a sustainable stream of new money coming in.  There are also fears that engineers may not really have an option to “retire early”—they might just not be rehired at CPS schools.

 

In a letter to principals last month, CPS Chief Administrative Officer Jose Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta said the district is “requiring all prospective … vendors to employ impacted CPS engineers.” However, SodexoMAGIC’s pilot schools hired engineers from IUOE Local 399, not Iacullo’s local. Some engineers from Iacullo’s union found jobs at other Chicago schools or in the suburbs rather than switch to Local 399.

 

Building age is also a factor. Of SodexoMAGIC’s 33 pilot schools, 26 are less than 30 years old. Many CPS buildings are almost a century old, and principals from non-pilot schools have expressed concern that new engineers won’t have the experience to maintain these older buildings, or that engineering staff will be cut too much to give the buildings adequate maintenance.

 

“Sodexo didn’t get the schools that were old,” Berry said. “And I don’t know how quickly they’ll be able to get up to speed in older buildings without hiring more staff. We’re going to be right back where we were with Aramark.”

Icy Sidewalks Spark Outrage Over Janitorial Services [Aramark] at Sutherland

Substance News, By Howard Ludwig | January 12, 2016

Students are released at the end of the day on Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks last Monday sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark.

 

DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

BEVERLY — Icy sidewalks proved to be a launching pad for parents upset about the janitorial services at Sutherland Elementary School.

Students returned from winter break last Monday to find most of the sidewalks hadn’t been shoveled or were cleared with only narrow paths, said Colleen Loehr, of Beverly.

Loehr volunteers as a traffic moderator on Monday mornings and Tuesday afternoons at the school at 10015 S. Leavitt St. in Beverly. Her sons, Ryan, 9, and William, 7, are third- and first-graders.

She’s stationed at the kiss-and-go drop-off at the northwest corner of the school on Monday mornings. As she was unloading children and their backpacks last week, kids were slipping and falling. Concerned parents stopped, causing frustration by hurried parents waiting behind.

“Three or four kids fell, and two more were crying,” Loehr said.Word spread quickly on the school’s Facebook page that shoveling the sidewalk is the responsibility of the Sutherland’s janitorial staff, which was handed over to Aramark this year.

 

The news sparked outrage, as parents vented not only about the unsafe sidewalks but also about the unkempt conditions at the school of 697 students in the heart of Beverly

…Parent volunteers reported seeing mice and rats in the cafeteria, trash strewed in the classrooms and horrendous smells as well as gross conditions in the bathrooms.

Melanie Howe said on Monday that she and her husband volunteered to teach a program to fifth-graders on Dec. 7. She arrived before the students had entered the building and was greeted with a filthy scene.

“Garbage cans were full. The floor was covered in spills wet and dry, large and small. Condiment packets were squashed open and dried to the floor. Half eaten food was also on the floor and tables,” said Howe on Monday.

The outcry led to parents demanding action from Principal Eric Steinmiller, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) and Aramark. Steinmiller would not comment and a call to Willie Porter, a district manager for Aramark, was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

But on Monday, Michael Passman, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools issued a written statement on the situation.

“CPS and Aramark have been working closely with Sutherland staff to ensure the school provides students with a safe and healthy learning environment. A thorough plan of action has been developed to address concerns, and the school will receive additional custodial support on weekends to improve school cleanliness,” Passman said.

Still, O’Shea said this wasn’t the first time he’s heard about issues involving cleanliness at Sutherland. He met with Aramark officials along with parents and school administrators at the school on Nov. 2 to discuss the problem.

“Aramark had conceded that yes they’d had some issues,” O’Shea said on Friday.

The company vowed to clean up its act, and O’Shea had assumed progress had been made until the icy sidewalks brought a fresh batch of issues to the forefront. As a result, he took to Facebook encouraging parents to attend Sutherland’s Local School Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19.

“The LSC there is very dedicated,” O’Shea said on Friday. “Aramark needs to do better.”

Loehr plans to attend the meetings and is encouraging others to do so as well. She said the sidewalks weren’t cleared by the end of the school day on Monday, but the paths were free of snow and ice on Tuesday and have been good since.

Still, she said conditions in the school are troubling, adding that her two sons refuse to put their food on the sticky lunch tables at school. Instead, they use their lunch boxes as placemats.

Brian Roache, of Beverly, has a kindergartner and third-grader at Sutherland. He frequently volunteers and said he, too, has seen mice in the school. He said some days are worse than others and doesn’t blame the custodians for the situation.

“It’s gotten significantly worse since Aramark has taken over,” Roache said.

 

Sutherland LSC Meeting To Focus on Cleanliness, Janitorial Provider Aramark

Substance News, By Howard Ludwig | January 19, 2016

Students are released at the end of the day last Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark.

BEVERLY — Parents at Sutherland Elementary will be able to voice their concerns about school cleanliness at a meeting of the Local School Council at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Issues with the school’s janitorial service provider, Aramark, came to the forefront when students returned to school from winter break on Jan. 4. Icy sidewalks proved to be a launching pad for parents upset with the level of sanitation and general upkeep of the school at 10015 S. Leavitt St. in Beverly. Much of their frustration played out on the school’s Facebook page.

The agenda for the meeting indicates that Aramark will present a “timeline for school improvement” to the council. The gathering will also allow for public comment, which is limited to two minutes per person.

 

In response to a DNAinfo article last week, Michael Passman, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools issued a written statement on the janitorial situation at Sutherland.

“CPS and Aramark have been working closely with Sutherland staff to ensure the school provides students with a safe and healthy learning environment. A thorough plan of action has been developed to address concerns, and the school will receive additional custodial support on weekends to improve school cleanliness,” Passman said.

But this isn’t the first time there has been complaints at Sutherland about the company that was handed over the school’s janitorial services this year.

Principal Eric Steinmiller, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), some Local School Council members and others met with the Aramark on Nov. 2 to discuss the conditions at the school with 697 students in the heart of Beverly.

Aramark admitted to its shortcomings at the time and promised the situation would improve, O’Shea said.

With a fresh batch of complaints on hand, the alderman urged residents to attend Tuesday night’s meeting to voice their concerns directly to Aramark brass.  “Aramark needs to do better,” O’Shea said.

 

Parents at West Side school volunteer — to clean restrooms and classrooms

A sign on a Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School classroom door verifies that a classroom is clean on Dec. 19, 2015. Parents spent Saturday morning cleaning classrooms and bathrooms because of what they say has been “inadequate custodial work.”

Marwa EltagouriContact Reporter

Chicago Tribune

December 19, 2015, 6:19 p.m.

In light of Chicago Public Schools‘ financial challenges, parents expect to be asked to pitch in more at their children’s schools. But janitorial work usually isn’t on the list of volunteer opportunities.

On Saturday, a handful of parents of pre-kindergarten students packed yellow rubber gloves and spray bottles of vinegar and baking soda solution and headed to Suder Montessori Elementary Magnet School, 2022 W. Washington Blvd., on the Near West Side, where they spent the morning cleaning their children’s washrooms.

The parents felt they didn’t have a choice: Upon entering the bathrooms, they found pools of day-old urine on the floor, feces smeared on the walls and clogged, stinking toilet bowls. In the past few weeks, the school had an E. coli outbreak, and more than half of the kindergarten students missed school because of various illnesses, including a stomach bug, diarrhea or vomiting, said Michelle Burgess, head of the school’s parent-teacher association.

“These are preschoolers. They go to the bathroom and miss. The boys play in the urinals. And sometimes can’t get to the toilet fast enough. It’s understandable,” said Angela Morales, the parent of two children who attend the school. “But they need to clean. We can’t have our kids be in this filth.”

Parents claim the unsanitary bathroom conditions, overflowing garbage cans and soiled napping cots are the result of inadequate custodial care following the Chicago Board of Education’s decision last spring to award multimillion-dollar custodial management contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.

The decision to privatize much of the custodial work was made in light of “daunting financial challenges” faced by the district, CPS officials have said. Surveys conducted by principals and parent organizations at the beginning of the school year aired numerous complaints of filthy conditions inside some school buildings after the custodial changes.

CPS group rips ‘Magic’ custodian deal, contributions to Emanuel campaign

Aramark and Chicago Public School officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

Questions about school cleanliness grew further in early September when district officials announced that close to 480 subcontracted custodians who work in CPS buildings would be laid off by Aramark…CPS officials in March signed a minimum three-year contract worth up to $260 million with Aramark. SodexoMAGIC also received a minimum three-year, up to $80 million contract for facility upkeep earlier this year.

The reduced contracts, Suder parents say, have led to the school operating with two full-time custodians and one part-time custodian as opposed to operating with four full-time custodians as it had in previous years. Parents claim that since the reductions, janitors have done a poor job maintaining regular cleaning duties and, for the past three months, have mopped the floor with water—and nothing else.

One of the school’s janitor closets revealed empty cleaning solution bottles, which parents say Aramark has yet to resupply.

CPS promises to clean up custodial issues

Parents also said the school’s principal, Alexander Phillips, has had limited success trying to improve the circumstances, which they say are out of his control. Saturday was the first time the parents decided to clean the classrooms and bathrooms themselves.

“With us pitching in, though, what happens to the long-term efforts? We’re concerned that this is sending a message that Aramark is inadequate, and that parents will always be there to fill in the gaps,” said parent Sylvia Wood, who has a son in pre-K. “The reality is that we’re tired of our kids getting sick.”

Morales, one of the parents, said she’s grateful for the quality of education her children receive. The school is driven by parent volunteers, who recently helped build an edible garden at the school with a greenhouse, chicken coop, vegetable garden and outdoor classroom and lunch area.

But parents shouldn’t have to put volunteer hours into cleaning classrooms or bathrooms.

“This is where our kids come to learn, where they spend their day,” she said. “It’s all horrible. Just horrible.”

 

 

Outsourcing America: Sodexo Siphons Cash From Kids and Soldiers while Dishing Up Subprime Food

09/24/2013 03:47 pm ET | Updated Nov 24, 2013

The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

By Rebekah Wilce and Mary Bottari

Since the 2008 financial crisis, cash strapped states have accelerated the outsourcing of America in hopes of delivering the same services more cheaply. Desperate government is our best customer,” said one executive specializing in infrastructure purchases.

…this explosion in outsourcing of government services to private for-profit firms has generated higher prices, poorer service, and scandal.

Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) launched a new web resource OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org where we will profile the privatizers and profiteers selling out our democracy. For our first profile of America’s big 12 outsourcing firms, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) focuses on Sodexo, a multinational company based in France that provides food services to schools, college campuses, the U.S. military, and other government entities across the United States. With about $8.8 billion in annual revenues from operations in North America, Sodexo is a primary driver of the privatization and outsourcing of food services in America. But Sodexo has taken the low road to profitability.

Sodexo “Rebate” Scheme Ensures Race to the Bottom in Suppliers

In 2010, Sodexo was caught fomenting a race to the bottom in food service, by choosing food suppliers based not on quality but based on which supplier could give them the highest cash rebate for the contract. This iced out small local famers and other quality food suppliers in favor of big agriculture and big business that could best engage in the kickback scheme.

After an attorney general investigation, Sodexo paid an eye-popping $20 million in 2010 to settle claims that it overcharged 21 New York school districts and the State University of New York (SUNY) system for food and facilities services from 2004 to 2009. New York’s case led to a “major investigation“ by at least three other state attorneys general, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General began a nationwide audit in October 2011 for alleged systematic taxpayer fraud by multiple firms.

The scandal prompted Congressional hearings, and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) declared, “Everyday the government provides meals to our soldiers at home and overseas, veterans, government employees and to our children through the national school lunch program. . . . Recent reports of fraud and other abuses in food service contracts have snowballed. . . . The message of these reports and investigations is clear, we are not doing enough to make sure that the government is not being cheated.”

Horsemeat Found in England, Listeria Found in the U.S… Sodexo’s unethical business practices ensure that low quality foods are the norm…

Most famously, Sodexo was implicated in the British horsemeat scandal earlier this year, when the company found horse DNA in some of its products and withdrew all frozen beef products from its catering operations at 2,300 British schools, care facilities, military bases, prisons, office canteens, and sporting venues.

In 2007, when Sodexo was contracted to provide food services to all Marine Corps mess halls in the United States, the USDA recalled 3,000 pounds of chicken that may have been contaminated with Listeria bacteria. Some of that chicken had been shipped to Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. In 2011…

Sodexo lost part of its $1.2 billion contract, no longer catering Marine mess halls on both the West and East coasts.

For these and other reasons, numerous school districts and other institutions — including eleven universities — have cancelled some or all contracts with Sodexo, and many are happy with the change.

Public Schools Reject Sodexo, Embrace “Good Food” Instead

Public school district food service directors are often the unsung heroes of districts’ successful efforts to kick Sodexo out of the schools and return food service to local control. They work to rebuild the district’s food services in the wake of the multinational. Rick Hughes, a former Sodexo employee, now runs the Colorado Springs School District’s food services in-house after the district ended its contract with Sodexo. He has been called the “good food guru,” and he revamped Colorado Springs’ meals program post-Sodexo by setting a high bar for what constituted good food, including whole grains and fresh produce; and no growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, added sugars, trans fats, or dyes.

Gema Soto, who is now Food Service Director of the Ashland School District in Oregon after the district ended its contract with Sodexo in 2010, told CMD that the change has been “absolutely positive — for the kids, for the parents, and definitely for the staff.” Sodexo’s “large cookie cutter approach” wasn’t appropriate, she said, for a little community like Ashland. The kitchen staff now “feel empowered, the district has a measure of control, . . . and parents feel like they have more of a voice.” In contrast to when Sodexo ran the program, now “there’s someone on site that they can go to with concerns and ideas, as opposed to a management company where you have to go through layers of control, and everyone’s getting their orders from on high. Our flexibility has really worked out.”

And healthy foods may bring more benefits to kids than previously known, according to new research that links outsourced food with poor performance.

Private Food Service Management Associated with Higher Costs, Lower Test Scores, and More

Privatization of food and other services in school districts and other public institutions has been linked to a whole host of problems. A 2008 study by Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan found “no substantive decrease in the cost of student lunches and a modest increase in the cost of breakfasts with private food management.”

Alarmingly, Zullo’s study also found that children at Michigan schools with outsourced food service had lower test scores than those whose food was prepared and provided by public employees. Why? An exploration of Centers for Disease Control data led the researchers to suggest that “the cause for the lower test scores is greater availability of high fat and high sugar foods under private food service management.”

Zullo told CMD, “When you have privatized food service in schools, they tend to serve more sweetened drinks, and also more high fat and high salt foods. Schools are under financial pressure, and these private firms step up and say they can make the lunchroom into a moneymaker.”

But the model under which they do that, when given free reign, he says, is to create virtually a fast food environment, “like a mall food court.” The companies, he said, want to sell meals that they think children will want to buy, and they know that high fat, salty foods and sugary drinks are addictive to at least some students. And that kind of food is cheap and inexpensive.

Other Controversies regarding Outsourcing to Sodexo

Sodexo has been mired in other controversies as well. In 1994, Sodexo acquired a significant stock investment in private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which is infamous for insufficient and inexperienced staff, security, facilities and medical care from efforts to save money and increase profits. CCA’s poor management has resulted in frequent violence between inmates and a high record of escapes. By 2000, Sodexo was the largest investor in the company. In March 2000, the Prison Moratorium Project organized universities across the country to expose Sodexo’s connection to the CCA. In the campaign, “Not With Our Money,” students pressured schools to cut contracts with Sodexo if it did not divest from CCA’s operations. After losing contracts with six universities, Sodexo announced in 2001 that it would sell all investments in CCA, but at the same time it increased ownership of private prisons in the UK and Australia.

And Sodexo paid $80 million in April of 2005 to settle a lawsuit brought by the company’s thousands of black employees, who claimed that they were “routinely barred from promotions and segregated within the company.” Critics also accuse Sodexo of cost savings on the backs of workers and a pattern of interfering with worker rights in many states, including the right to organize.

Sodexo Profits Rise

But through it all, Sodexo continues to rake in the big bucks, much of it from American taxpayers.

In the last five years, Sodexo’s profits have risen despite the financial crisis, and even as many public school districts — and other public institutions with which the company contracts — have seen their funding cut drastically.

The company made $1.036 billion in profits in 2008, and $1.292 billion in profits in 2012. Of its $24 billion in revenues internationally in 2012, 37 percent was from North American operations. Factoring in the fair market value of the stock options he was granted, Sodexo Group’s CEO in France, Michel Landel, was paid a total of nearly $4.2 million in 2012.

As children return to school this fall, parents and school districts face a choice: whether to outsource school lunches to for-profit multinational firms like

Sodexo with a track record of running up costs and running down quality

or to maintain local control of food service and make sure that school boards and school officials sharpen their focus on providing what Rick Hughes calls “good food” as much as possible.

 

Middletown School Board Ends [Sodexo] Contract With Outside Firm To Hire Facilities Director

 

Hartford Courant, Shawn R. Beals, May 11, 2016

 

Middletown [Connecticut] school board ending Sodexo facilities contract after three years

 

MIDDLETOWN — The board of education will end its relationship with facilities management company Sodexo, opting to hire its own facilities director instead of outsourcing the duties.

 

Sodexo has been running the facilities department for three years, but board members, council members and the mayor have said they think the district could save money by putting a district staff member in charge of the department.

 

The board voted unanimously against renewing Sodexo’s contract for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The contract was set to increase about $20,000 in the next fiscal year to about $1.97 million. The current contract will expire at the end of the fiscal year June 30.

 

The board had paid the company to bring in a manager and handle a host of duties within the $7.8 million facilities budget including day-to-day supervision, purchasing and project management.

 

A year ago, the board narrowly voted to keep the Sodexo contract in place after an intense discussion with the company’s leaders about personality conflicts between union members and the manager stationed in the district. After the contract was renewed, Sodexo brought in a new manager and made changes to improve the morale of the city’s employees working in the school district’s facilities department.

Board members said they have seen improvements in the condition of the school buildings and in the working conditions of employees, but an exceptionally challenging financial situation and the potential for savings outweighed the Sodexo contract’s benefits.

Chairman Vincent Loffredo said the district has a number of projects to complete over the summer and will have to be careful to work out a transition plan that does not jeopardize the work. The focus now turns to developing a plan with Sodexo to hand over the facilities operations and to forming a job description to hire a new manager.

“They did their job, but at the end of the day there exists some very strong indications that if we bring it back in we could potentially save significant dollars,” Loffredo said.

Board member Linda Szynkowicz, who has voted against the Sodexo contract each year, said city staff members still have workflow issues that need to be addressed. She said other elected officials from both parties also oppose the Sodexo contract.

“We should be hiring one person, one qualified person, to do the job and do it properly,” Szynkowicz said.

AFSCME Local 466 has been asking the school board to end the contract for three years. The union is pleased with the vote, said union spokesman Larry Dorman.

“We always thought this was in the best interests of students, school employees and the Middletown community,” Dorman said. “Clearly Sodexo simply wasn’t a good fit for Middletown. It makes sense to have this work in-house especially when budgets are tight.”

Sodexo officials said they would work with the district on a transition plan to hand over the management of the facilities department to the new director. After Tuesday night’s vote, Vice President Mike Grey said the company has been successful in making the district’s facilities operations more efficient while allowing staff to focus on the needs of students.

“Our experience in Middletown has been unique,” Grey said. “We’ve had a lot of success. There’s just a different measurement Middletown can sometimes use. We are very pleased to have been here for three years.”

The board of education decided three years ago to hire Sodexo after its former facilities director retired as part of an incentive program. In April, the board voted to keep in place a contract to have Sodexo oversee its cafeteria services. The board also discussed hiring its own manager instead, but did not think the district would have enough time to find an appropriate replacement before the next school year.

Mayor Daniel Drew last year asked school officials to end the Sodexo contract. He and others said the company is focused on profits rather than education.

…Drew pointed out last year the company paid sales taxes that the board of education would not have paid if it made purchases on its own.

Jason Parenteau, Sodexo Northeast district manager, said Tuesday night that the company paid about $37,000 in sales tax in the last year, far below the city’s estimate. He said the company’s profit on the $1.95 million contract for the 2015-16 year was $50,000 to $60,000.