Tag: Samuel Valtierrez

D209 Re-ups with Food Service Contractor Despite Frustrations

Aramark food.jpgFriday, July 14, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel/Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

The Proviso District 209 Board of Education approved a new one-year roughly $1.1 million contract with Aramark Education Services for the upcoming school year, despite strong criticism from school officials and board members at its July 11 board meeting.

Aramark has provided food services to District 209 for the past seven school years but recently there has been a significant dip in student participation and anecdotal complaints from both students and board members about the quality of food. But, given the bidding process timeline, including complying with Illinois state law, and the new 2017-2018 school year starting in about a month, the board needed to move forward with finding a food vendor and voted to approve the contract.

“I have zero confidence in this company,” Dr. Patrick Hardy, Proviso East’s principal, said of Aramark. “I want to say that I am sad that they’re here. This is one of the most frustrating moments I’ve had in my time here. ”

District 209 began the process of finding a new food service provider in March in an effort to see greater student participation along with expanded food options, including heathier meals, according to documents in its March 14 meeting packet. The Illinois State Board of Education must approve food service contracts to ensure compliance with federal and state lunch program guidelines.

Four companies responded to a bid request in May, with Aramark submitting the lowest quote by about $8,000. Illinois state law requires school district’s to award contracts worth more than $25,000 to the lowest bidder.

Board President Theresa Kelly and Board Member Samuel Valtierrez, whose kids are students in the district, abstained from the vote.

Board members and school officials, including District 209 Supt. Dr. Jesse Rodriguez and Hardy, criticized Aramark’s past performance at the meeting and cautioned company representatives present at the meeting that while the business relationship would continue, it was imperative the district see significant improvements to their level of service.

“The best predictor of future performance is past performance…If I was to bet on this, I am going to bet it’s not going to happen,” Rodríguez said. “It won’t happen because the past performance shows that you have a bad track record. Let’s fix that.”

Aramark reps said there has been management changes at the company and that they were willing to work toward satisfying the board.

“In any district, students are likely to have complaints with something about the food,” an Aramark spokesperson at the July 11 meeting said. “But we know that we are here to serve the students and make sure they’re nourished because we know and believe that their nourishment is very closely tied to their academic success.”

Kelly requested twice weekly updates from school principals and Rodríguez said the district would have audits throughout the year to keep taps on the food service.

Board Member Ned Wagner said he’s heard students reporting “abysmal, horrible food” from Aramark.

“We were very sad to see the level of service that we were seeing last year from Aramark,” Rodriguez said. “It was quite embarrassing for me as the superintendent to see those students and the quality of service they were getting.”

Hardy added he’s seen Aramark serve spoiled milk and bread and burnt pizza and has the photographic evidence. He also told Aramark representatives his students merit a better level of service.

In a July 13 email to the Review, Hardy declined to share the photos.

“I have zero confidence in what Aramark will do for my students. I will say this publicly because it’s how I feel. I only see one difference between my students and the students they serve well and they better figure out how to serve race and poverty because I’m not gonna tolerate it and I’m not gonna fall on my sword for Aramark,” Hardy said, to loud applause from audience members. “If they serve other students well, they better figure out how to serve my students because they deserve it too.”

The reported decrease in student participation, according the March board documents, was about 50 percent. This drop occurred “even though there is no cost for breakfast and/or lunch” for students. District 209, in 2015, began participating in the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which reimburses school districts in low-income areas for meal costs, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s website.

“Our students deserve better,” Kelly said of the current quality of food service. VFP

Photo above: Aramark 

F E A T U R E D  E V E N TBusiness reception Detailed Flyer_July

Advertisements

Proviso Together Slate Pitches Inclusion, Balance on D209 Board

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 12.25.35 PM.png

The four candidates running on the Proviso Together slate. | Screenshot from Proviso Together’s website

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel for Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

Four school board candidates made their election pitches to about a dozen Hillside residents at the Hillside Public Library, Feb. 25, hoping to drum up support for their campaigns in an election just six weeks away.

The candidates — Rodney Alexander, Arbdella Patterson, Amanda Grant and Samuel Valtierrez — make up the reform-minded “Proviso Together” slate in the April 4 election.

The Proviso First slate — comprising (pictured below) sitting D209 board members Dan Adams (second from left), Teresa McKelvy (far right) and Brian Cross (second from right), and one non-incumbent, Jacqueline Walton (far left) — rounds out the 8-person race.

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 12.44.27 PM.png

The Proviso Together slate spent nearly three hours answering questions from residents and discussing the future of the district, which serves 10 suburbs. All four candidates are parents of current or former Proviso students, a fact featured prominently in each pitch.

“I saw the need for these kids to get a better education, to achieve something in life,” Valtierrez, whose son graduated from Proviso East in 2016, said. “Our schools aren’t providing that. It makes me so upset. We must rise up and do something about it.”

The event, organized by Hillside Together, a local neighborhood group, focused on a wide range of issues, including academic achievement, student attendance rates, parent involvement, K through 12 cross-district collaboration, financial accountability, district leadership and curriculum. Ned Wagner, a Forest Parker and current District 209 board member who supports the Proviso Together slate, was also in attendance.

Paul Kasley, a Hillside resident for several decades, mentioned the need to change the stigma of vocational programs in high schools.

“There seems to be this perception in education that vocational training is for dummies,” Kasley said. “Somehow the idea has been planted in our minds that you’re only useful if you go to college.”

Wagner mentioned the planned “Career Academies” at Proviso East as a step in the right direction. The academies, which will begin in fall 2017, are curriculum tracks designed to prepare students for professions after high school and better serve their individual interests, according to the D209 website. The academies include “Arts and Communications” and “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.”

Valtierrez, an electrician, also spoke about his appreciation for technical and vocational training.

Other attendees, including one Hillside mother, lamented the choice many Proviso parents must make once their children reach high school age: move to another community with better performing schools or find a way to afford parochial or private school tuition.

Grant, a mother of two young children herself, sympathized with the woman and said that dilemma was a motivating issue for her candidacy.

“Do I stay or do I go?” she said. “I’ve gone with the third option which is roll up my sleeves and get to work.”

Other residents, like Greg Gibbons, just came to meet the candidates and get a sense of their campaign messages.

“I just wanted to come, get updated on what’s going on,” Gibbons said.

None of the four candidates on the Proviso Together slate are from Hillside. The slate, however, is geographically diverse, with each candidate hailing from a different Proviso community: Melrose Park, Westchester, Bellwood and Maywood.

“We need to have a balanced board. That slate was put together consciously,” Wagner said.

“You have to get your message out to all these communities. That’s one of the challenges of District 209.” VFP 

For more local new, ‘Like’ VFP on Facebook

facebook-image

Breaking: Melrose Park Mayor Says He Can’t Commit to Welcoming Village Ordinance

melrose-welcoming-village-meeting

Residents stand up in a show of support for a Welcoming Village ordinance in Melrose Park during a Feb. 27 regular board meeting. || Michael Romain/VFP

melrose-park-welcoming-village-meeting

Monday, February 27, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 11:11 p.m.

The atmosphere inside of a packed room at 1 N. Broadway during a regular Melrose Park board meeting felt like the pre-ceremonial rumblings of a wedding audience. At least 100 people filled council chambers tonight, most hoping to hear that the board would at least start the process of approving a Welcoming Village ordinance.

Thirty minutes later, after a 15-minute ode to immigrants and a litany of prior good deeds done on behalf of his village’s Hispanic community, Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico left most in the crowd feeling like jilted lovers.

Members of PASO – West Suburban Action Project, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrants and other vulnerable populations throughout the West Cook County suburbs — including Melrose Park, Stone Park, Maywood and Bellwood — have been vocal in their support of a proposal that would “draw a firm line between police and ICE, disentangling the criminal and immigration system,” according to a flyer the group has circulated.

The possibility that Melrose Park would pass some measure similar to what PASO is proposing seemed strong earlier this year. During a meeting in January, which Serpico did not attend due to a reported illness, members of the board seemed to get behind the measure.

Trustee Arturo Mota said at the time that Melrose Park “has been very supportive of being a welcoming community,” adding that the village has also gotten behind local initiatives and state laws that would ease the burden of living for immigrants.

A motion to “establish Melrose Park as a sanctuary village and authorize the offices of the mayor and village attorney to prepare all documents for the aforesaid” was tabled due to Serpico’s absence. Mota said the mayor wanted to “address everyone who is for or against” the ordinance before the vote was held.

But a Feb. 13 regular meeting where further discussion on the proposal was to take place was canceled, with a Serpico spokesman explaining that the mayor had been out of town and recuperating from “very serious back surgery.”

On Monday night, Serpico and the trustees heard at least 15 minutes of public comments from numerous community leaders expressing their support for the measure and arguing that it would alleviate some of the fear that’s been palpable in many immigrant communities since President Donald Trump’s election.

“Immigrants have always been part of the fabric of the United States of America. I’ve seen too many families torn apart due to deportation,” said Sister Noemia Silva, of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo-Scalabrinians.

“Pope Francis asks each of us to help those who, for various reasons, have been forced out of their homeland and immigrate to a new land,” she said. “We cannot wait. It’s urgent for Melrose Park to become a welcoming village for immigrants.”

Silva and others referenced raids conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this month that resulted in the of 680 people across the country, according to ICE. Seventy-five percent of them, the agency claimed, were “criminal aliens.” One of those arrests took place in Melrose Park.

Recently, President Trump has called for local law enforcement officials to cooperate with the federal government during his administration’s efforts to ramp up on immigration enforcement.

“People are afraid to take their children to school, to go to restaurants and to generally live their everyday lives,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco, the executive director of PASO who is also an immigration rights attorney.

“The federal government is threatening to deport more than two or three million people this year and they are not going to be able to do that without deputizing local officials,” Ruiz-Velasco said.

“Two weeks ago, new policies were issued by the president making all immigrants targets for deportation,” she said. “This does not apply only to undocumented immigrants. They are threatening to prosecute people who came to the United States with their children, to charge them with smuggling.”

Martha Ortiz, a Melrose Park business owner, said that Trump’s immigration policies are hurting local businesses.

“Many of my employees are terrified that something can happen to their friends or their family and businesses like mine are beginning to see less sales, as people are fearful of being out and about,” she said. “They live with the fear that something can happen to them or their family. They’re also trying to save money in the case of an emergency or a tragic deportation.”

Samuel Valtierrez, a 25-year resident of Melrose Park who is running for a seat on the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board in the April 4 election, compared the trials of Latino immigrants today to those of immigrants in the past.

“If today was 1910 and [this were happening to the Italian community], I would be here saying the same thing,” Valtierrez said. “If it was 1870, I would be here to defend the Irish community, because they went through the same thing. But it’s 2017. And [it’s happening] to the Latino community.”

Serpico touted his record of taking stances on numerous immigration-related issues, noting that he’s spoken “all over the world” on behalf of immigration. The mayor said that he’s met on numerous occasions with Silva and also met recently with PASO officials about the proposed Welcoming Village ordinance.

The mayor added that the village has already taken steps to mitigate the widespread fear of deportation among area immigrants and their families by instituting numerous measures, such as stopping a click-it-or-ticket program because of the fear it elicited among some immigrant motorists. He also said that Melrose Park police officers don’t inquire about immigration status or cooperate with ICE.

“Who wants to see families be broken up? That’s not Christian,” Serpico said. “That’s not the right thing to do.”

But the mayor stopped short of committing to the creation of an ordinance that would be legally binding. The mayor briefly mentioned President Trump’s threats to yank some federal funding from local governments who refuse to cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement measures.

He also said that, besides, there’s not much a local government can do to stop federal authorities from coming into Melrose Park to conduct immigration-related actions. One village official said that the police learned about the one ICE arrest that occurred in town after reading it in the newspaper.

Ruiz-Velasco, however, pushed back, insisting that, although an ordinance would not stop deportations, it would at least provide “a layer of protection” against the federal government’s efforts and would help ease some residents’ fears.

Serpico said that he was concerned about Trump’s instability and unpredictable nature, adding that he didn’t want to pass an ordinance only to have the president implement an even more draconian policy that, given the village’s status, would perhaps open it up to potential financial repercussions.

The mayor, who didn’t explicitly say the ordinance was dead, said that he would be in communication with community stakeholders about the proposal. That explanation wasn’t enough for one Melrose Park resident, who insisted on Serpico providing a firmer declaration of his intent. No trustees on the board talked during the meeting.

“I’d like to be able to go home tonight and [tell my son some good news],” she said, adding that she was not a member of PASO.

“I can’t make that commitment,” Serpico said. “We’ll [keep] the lines of communication open.”

Valtierrez compared Serpico’s noncommittal speech to a boyfriend claiming that he loves his girlfriend without making a commitment to marriage, adding that an ordinance would be similar to a marriage or birth certificate.

“For me as a father, for my kids to feel secure, [and to know that] I am their father, my signature is on the birth certificate,” Valtierrez said. “That’s what makes me their father legally. That’s all we want. We want a legal document to feel protected.”

“I feel like someone whose been living with a woman for 20 years and has two kids, a house, two cars and I come home every day, and after 20 years she says, ‘Let’s get married,'” Serpico responded, in keeping with the marriage metaphor. “Does that paper change anything after 20 years?”

“If gives you some security, that’s for sure,” someone yelled from the audience.

“But how many people live with people,” Serpico responded, “and as soon as they get married, they get divorced?” VFP

For more local news, ‘Like’ VFP on Facebook

facebook-image