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New Rochelle School Cafeterias Ranked Worst in Westchester: Ants, Roaches, Rats and Flies

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New Rochelle School Cafeterias Ranked Worst in Westchester: Ants, Roaches, Rats and Flies

September 14, 2009 - 15:37
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902D5FA9-EE7F-448C-8AB7-6774E419B988.jpgNew Rochelle now holds the "honor" of having the worst school cafeterias in Westchester/Putnam County, according to cafeteria inspection reports obtained by the Journal News. The Journal News will report this week that New Rochelle is tied with the Katonah-Lewisboro district with 9 "Unacceptable" inspections in 2008 alone in having 10 "Unacceptable" Inspection Reports.

Overall, of the 335 inspections done by County Health Inspectors in Westchester and Putnam counties during 2008, there were 56 "Unacceptable" ratings. 10 of the 56 unacceptable ratings in Westchester/Putnam counties were in New Rochelle schools or 18% of of the total; 2 of 10 New Rochelle schools had zero unacceptable ratings (Barnard and Davis) so just 8 New Rochelle schools accounted for almost one-fifth of the flunked health inspections in the two counties. Large districts like Yonkers, White Plains, Yorktown and Port Chester has zero unacceptable ratings. Tarrytown, Mount Vernon and Peekskill had one each.

From 2006 to 2008, New Rochelle has had 13 "Unacceptable" Inspections so the problem has been getting worse not better.

[UPDATE: Journal News is looking into why they do not have any inspection reports for Trinity]

[UPDATE: Journal News found that WC Health Department did not provide Trinity reports; JN updated their database. Trinity had 1 "Unacceptable" Inspection Report brining New Rochelle total to 10 for the entire district making them the undisputed "leader" in "Unacceptable" Inspection reports]

Talk of the Sound readers will recall Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak reporting to the school board how complimentary state auditors were about how gracious New Rochelle school officials were when New Rochelle was flagged for state inspection of its cafeterias. It appears the "honor" had less to do with Organisciak's congeniality and more with running the worst food service operation in two counties.

The worst schools in New Rochelle are Jefferson Elementary School, Isaac E. Young Middle School and New Rochelle High School.

1254752F-06D6-4E4D-A2F2-23284F807FA3.jpgThere was a total of 51 53 inspections between 2006 and 2008 in the database as well as 3 parent-generated complaints resulting in numerous major ("red") violations and 13 14 "unacceptable" inspection reports. Two of the parent-generated complaints were for for drastically unsanitary conditions (roaches, flies and ants). New Rochelle High School had many violations which is made more serious because the high school cafeteria is used to pre-cook food for other schools including Barnard and Webster. Jefferson School is a candidate for the most revolting track record in New York State with 4 "Unacceptable" Inspections and two very serious parent complaints.

Three schools had multiple complaints, all but two had at least one complaint and all schools had numerous minor ("blue") complaints:

Jefferson Elementary School: 4
New Rochelle High School: 3
Isaac E. Young Middle School: 2
Albert Leonard Middle School: 1
Columbus Elementary School: 1
Daniel Webster Middle School: 1
William B. Ward Elementary School: 1
Trinity Elementary School: 1
George M. Davis Elementary School: 0
Henry Barnard School School: 0

It will come as little surprise to those concerned with the so-called "North-South Divide" that 11 of the 14 (79%) "Unacceptable" Inspections were for schools attended primarily by students from the South End and the three worst schools were all schools primarily attended by students from the South End. Also, that the worst elementary school is a South End school or that the worst middle school is a South End School or that of the "Unacceptable" Inspections for "neighborhood" elementary schools 6 of the 8 (75%) were from South End schools.

Our reporting is based on data complied by the Journal News. The one area where the Journal News has done a very good job has been in the area of collecting public data and making it available in database form on lohud.com. Credit for that has to go to Cathey O'Donnell who serves as Assistant Metro Editor/Data Desk. He job includes "obtaining and analyzing data for print and the web and creating interactive databases for our web site: www.lohud.com/data." We can only hope that someday she will sit down with Julie Moran Alterio for a chat about how databases work.

Today O'Donnell has offered a real gem:

Cafeteria inspections: Westchester and Putnam school districts

In 2008, the Westchester County Health Department performed 333 school cafeteria inspections. Of those inspections, 255 were routine while 69 were follow-ups, and four were classified as “other.” The remaining were either construction related, one complaint and two were not classified.

Overall, there were 55 unacceptable ratings, according to the analysis. Here is a list of unacceptable ratings by district: Katonah-Lewisboro (9); New Rochelle (9); Bedford (8); Eastchester (6), and North Salem (4). Each of these districts had two unacceptable ratings in 2008: Blind Brook, Byram Hills, Mamaroneck, Pelham, Rye City and Scarsdale. Districts with one unacceptable rating were Bronxville, Edgemont, Elmsford, Mount Vernon, Peekskill, Somers and Tarrytown.

UPDATE: We found and reported to JN 2 additional inspections at Trinity Elementary School of which 1 had an "Unacceptable" rating for a total of 57.

Talk of the Sound has published excerpts from each inspection report for each school (except Trinity) and provided a top-line summary of each. Below is a link to each of the full reports for each school and the summary section from each post.

New Rochelle High School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 10
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 3
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: very bad inspections, 30% of inspections rated "unacceptable", in a word the food service is "gross", food/milk maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, potentially hazardous food (tuna), dirty cutting board, hand wash sink not working, handling bagels with bare-hands, dead mouse found. If this were a restaurant it would have been closed long ago. No wonder kids are skipping out of school to eat lunch at Chicken Joe's and McDonald's

Albert Leonard Middle School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 7
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 1
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: overall pretty good inspections, a few problems like food maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, flies present in kitchen, employee hair not properly restrained.

Isaac E. Young Middle School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 6
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 2
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: Bad. One-third of inspections "Unacceptable" including two most recent, food maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, hazardous foods, tuna kept at over 60 degrees F, food not properly sealed, dirty cooking areas.

Columbus Elementary School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 5
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 1
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: bad, a problems like some instances food maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, flies present in kitchen..

Trinity Elementary School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 2
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 1
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: Initially Trinity was not in the database. We called the Journal News to let them know. They found that the County Health Department had not sent it along with the rest of the FOIL request. They got the 2008 reports and loaded them into the database and called us back; not sure why there are no reports for 2006 and 2007. In any case, the results are not too good, 50% of inspections "unacceptable", food maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, tuna sandwiches at 55 degrees F, food stored on floor, stained/buildup of food debris in corners, dead roaches.

Daniel Webster Elementary School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 5
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 1
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: Not too good, 20% of inspections "unaccetapble" food maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, hand wash sink not working, dirty conditions, floor throughout kitchen unclean under and behind equipment, mouse droppings present.

George M. Davis Elementary School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 3
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 0
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: Very good. No major problems. Dust and grease build up and unclean floors but everything related to food storage and handling is good, overall perhaps the best kitchen in the District.

Henry Barnard School School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 3
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 0
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: Pretty good but may be misleading because food is prepared at New Rochelle High School which is very bad, a bit dirty, peeling paint and improper surfaces but otherwise OK.

Jefferson Elementary School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 8 (+2 Complaints)
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 5
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: An absolute disgrace, something you would expect to find in a third-world country, 62.5% of the inspections were rated "unacceptable", there were two additional complaints that would have been classified "unacceptable" if they had been regular inspections so really the figure is 70% unacceptable. Food maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, hand wash sink not working, items stores in sink, dumpster area unclean, unsanitary conditions, floors unclean/stained under and behind equipment throughout kitchen and generally filthy. No surprise then that inspectors found live flies, dead roaches and live ants crawling on the food.

William B. Ward Elementary School Cafeteria Inspections 2006-2008

  • Number of Inspections: 4 (+1 Complaint)
  • Number of Unacceptable Ratings: 1
  • Talk of the Sound Commentary: , overall not bad, food/milk maintained at temperatures outside acceptable range, potentially hazardous foods, this may be misleading because food prepared and then delivered from high school day before service, the complaint was about a potential problem not an actual problem.

NOTE: Also worth reading/watching is Chris Hansen's report for Dateline NBC How safe is school cafeteria food?

Oklahoma City inspector Troy Skow took us to a newly renovated high school. Remember, the inspector was on the lookout for critical violations. It didn't take long for him to find them, including the most serious, food temperatures that allow dangerous bacteria to grow. Hamburgers should be kept to at least 140 degrees to prevent bacteria. One burger Skow checked was being held almost 20 degrees too cold.

Hansen: "if a food product is just, say, seven degrees off, is that enough to have bacteria that can make a kid sick?"

Prof. Berg: "The bacterial growth goes on constantly. And it replicates faster and it replicates exponentially. So if it's seven minutes, it's here. If 14 minutes, it's doubled. It keeps doubling. And so the longer it sits out at a temperature… the more dangerous it gets."

Oklahoma City school officials didn't want to talk on camera, but instead sent this statement:

"We find what occurred ...during your recent visit, to be unacceptable. Our expectation is that each and every one of our cafeterias achieves a perfect inspection."

They also assured us the problems have been fixed.

We can only wonder what criteria the New Rochelle School District uses to measure success. It is certainly not "perfect inspection" because the "unacceptable" inspections have come across multiple schools, over different years, for different reasons and even when the inspection was a follow up visit for a failed inspection. If Jefferson School and New Rochelle High School were a restaurant would you go there for lunch? So why is the school board willing to send our children to eat in a public school with health inspections so bad that if they were a private restaurant they would be shut down and never re-opened. Or perhaps the board believes that for over $200 million a year, parents do not have a right to expect clean kitchens, properly stores and prepared foods and no ants, roaches, flies or rodents crawling around.

The solution is simple. Require that school board members and district administrators eat lunch once a week at a randomly selected school cafeteria. I tend to doubt that our board members would be willing to eat at any of these cafeterias until they were confident that these cafeterias were getting perfect inspection reports.

There are 6 Comments

Besides the food inspections, the Journal should investigate what happened Friday with the catastopic overcrowding that was beyond the relam of a fire hazard.
So, much so that the security guards were actually yelling over their talkies that is was an absolute threat to the students.

Robert Cox's picture

First, readers here will want to know more about this.

Second, the Journal News reporters read this site so telling your story here will reach them too.

The Jefferson School Cafeteria had the most food violations. Is this really a surprise? Do the residents of the south end of the city count?

I like to recommend that Dr Weiss check each and every bathroom in our schools. It's been brought to my attention that their isn't any soap in one of the NRHS bathrooms. A couple of years back this was the case at Barnard as well. What are the custodians doing all day? Dr Weiss has sent a letter stessing hand washing, etc. Dr Weiss i think you should look into this, while you're at it, you'll notice the leaky facets and the filth on the mirrors and walls.

I clicked through the link and see that it also says "Clean and pleasant eating areas for students and staff with adequate time for
unhurried eating;". This is from June 2006.

What about the 15 minute lunches???!!! At least they have been extended to 20 mins this year.

But if this is their resolution, they must have felt that 15 mins was "adequate time for unhurried eating".

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