Negaunee food service employees’ jobs saved as school board opposes private contract

Twenty food service employees at Negaunee Public Schools still have jobs as the school board voted last week against a contract for private food service.

Chartwells, the private vendor that bid for the food service work, is based in Detroit.

“You have 20 employees here who have Negaunee pride, who have a vested interest in the community. If you bring in an outside company, you would not have the same kind of service,” said Mike Thibault, president of the Marquette County Labor Council, as reported by the Marquette Mining Journal.

Pam Debelak, a special education teacher at the high school, also said it was important to keep local staff in place.

“When our kids go through the line, (the workers) know each of their names and they know the needs of the students,” she said. “They know who to talk to when a special needs student comes through and needs something. This group is so much more than someone who serves food. They are another part of the whole village that is raising our children.”

Members of the school board did say they would revisit the issue after the one-year extension.

“From what these people have said, I believe they can do a better job saving money,” board member Susan Wideman-Schaible said, according to the Mining Journal. “I think we should give them a chance to see if they can make a difference.”