At the most recent board meeting held at Jefferson School, two New Rochelle residents expressed concerns over a recent report in the Journal News that New Rochelle has the worst cafeterias in Westchester and Putnam counties. When a mother from one the schools with a failed inspection expressed her concerns, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak responded by lying to her face, telling her that all complaints were fixed within 48 hours.
This is false.
There were three health inspections at Jefferson School within a two week period -- 11//3/08, 11/10/08, and 11/13/08. The District failed the first two inspections specifically because problems identified on 11/3/08 were not fixed a week later on 11/10. It was 10 days before the problems were fixed not "48 hours" as Organisciak claimed.
John Quinn, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, tried the same line on the Journal News without success.
Quinn...said the inspectors' visits were helpful.
"We use it as a tool and another set of eyes to help provide good quality food service, and we follow up on it. You'll see that in the inspections," Quinn said.
While New Rochelle cleaned up conditions, it sometimes took prodding. There were two follow-up inspections at Jefferson Elementary School in 2008 before health inspectors gave the kitchen an acceptable status.
You can click the link below to read the three Jefferson inspections.
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.
The Journal News caught Quinn out last year as well, in their article on the 2007 Health Inspections.
Assistant Superintendent John B. Quinn said the district immediately responded to health inspectors' reports...Quinn said his understanding of an "unacceptable" mark on the county's inspection forms does not reflect on an entire school cafeteria.
"They are saying that condition is unacceptable, but they are not talking about the cafeteria as a whole," said Quinn, who noted that the district serves more than a million meals a year.
The Journal News then noted...
However, Caren Halbfinger, the Department of Health's director of public health information and communications, said an unacceptable mark applies to the overall inspection.
Oops. Another lie from Quinn and Organisciak.
In the 2008 article where the Journal News that New Rochelle had once again failed two inspections for the second year in a row, Quinn tells the paper how the district takes it "seriously" and that "The health and welfare of our children are our highest concerns."
Really? Then why would the number of failed inspections go up 500% from that point?
I have a few of my own questions I would like to see answered:
1. Meat Thermometers cost between $10-25 a piece. This district has spent over 1 billion dollars in the past five years. How is it possible that the school district did not budget a few hundred follars to supply cafetria workers with thermometers?
2. Most school districts in Westchester had zero failed inspections last year. Almost all of them had 2 or less. We had 10, the most in Westchester and Putnam counties. In 2006 the district flunked 2 inspections, most than almost every district. Why were these problems not addressed in 2006? Why was the "thermometer budget" not increased in the $200mm+ budget passed in May 2007?
3. As a follow up to the previous quesiton, after the problems in 2006 there were 2 more failed inspections in 2007. Should 4 failed inspections -- more than 90% of the districts in Westchester -- not been enough of a red flag for aggressive action? In fact, the problem became even worse the following year with 10 failed inspections all of which happened on Mr. Quinn's watch AFTER he got these "welcome" failed inspections in 2006 and 2007.
4. Last March a parent at Ward School sent around an email to parents in the distict in which she identified some of the exact same problems identified by the Westchester County Health Department - undercooked food, improperly stored food, improperly reheated foods. When parents at Trinity School asked Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak about this letter at a PTA meeting in March he disparaged and ridiculed this parent, dismissing the email with the words "consider the source" and denying there were any problems at Ward or anywhere else. Now we know that unlike parents of children at Ward and Trinity and throughout the District Mr. Organisciak was well aware that the parents concerns were entirely correct because in the 36 month period prior to that email being sent the disrict had repeatedly failed health inspections for the exact same issues including at Ward which the email cited and Trinity where the question was asked.
5. Does the board understand WHY undercooked food, improperly stored food, and improperly reheated food is a problem for our children? Bacteria is present in meat products and unless killed by the cooking process will multiply at a very rapid rate. The health reports indicate that this district has, for years, been serving what amount to "bacteria burgers" and "botchulism sandwiches" and "insect salads" to our children and when it is exposed through reporting by the Journal News this school district does not issue a statement, does not apologize, does not promise to do better, does not detail steps being taken to end this problem onces and for all (beyond buying thermometers!).
6. How many rats, mice, ants, cockroaches and other insects and vermin does the school district consider to be "acceptable"?
7. Finally, does Mr. Organisciak intend to apologize to the Ward parent both publicly, in writing, and in person for his "consider the source" statement in which he called into question the integrirty of a New Rochelle resident and parent who made a legitimate complaint and was publicly derided by him for doing it.