The Shelton Board of Education voted to renew its food service contract with the district\u2019s most recent vendor at its June 27 meeting, despite a public outcry from local cafeteria workers who claim the company is threatening to make cuts to their paid-time-off. A group of approximately 100 concerned Shelton school food service workers attended the Wednesday night, June 27 Board of Education meeting to voice their opposition to the renewal of the Whitsons Food service corporation\u2019s contract with the city. Even after months of resistance, the group of local cafeteria workers or \u201clunch ladies\u201d fell short in its effort to have the board of ed not renew its contract with Whitsons by a vote of five to four. Board members Kathy Yolish, Dr. Darlisa Ritter, Jose Goncalves, and David Gioiello all voted for the board of ed to deny Whitsons a contract renewal. Board of Ed Chair Mark Holden, Kate Kutash, Mandy Kilmartin, Tom Minotti and Anne Gaydos all voted in favor of the board renewing Whitsons contract for another year. On the day of the June 27 Board of Ed meeting, a cafeteria worker named Janet Martin-Allen submitted a letter to the editor expressing that as a result of the cuts to be made by Whitsons, she would lose 11% of her total income. Martin-Allen added that, \u201cWhitsons, has refused to negotiate a contract that includes my previous PTO days (sick, holiday, personal, and vacation days).\u201d On Thursday, June 28 Whitsons responded with a message of their own, including comments that address Martin-Allen\u2019s previous claims. \u201cShelton School District contracted with Whitsons at the start of the 2017-18 school year to operate a quality and financially sound nutrition program, which we have done\u2026 Since the start of the 2017-18 school year Shelton\u2019s union team members have expected to receive between 39 and 41 days of paid time off (ultimately at taxpayers\u2019 expense since the school district reimburses Whitsons for that cost) for working less than 180 days per year. \u00a0That\u2019s 22.77% of their time being paid for doing no work\u2026 Ms. Martin may be \u201cworking hard every day\u201d, but only for about 180 days (or less) a year. She and her co-workers cannot expect the same level of benefits as someone who works 365 days a year, especially at taxpayers\u2019 expense.\u201d To read the full response from Whitsons, look at page 8A or visit SheltonHerald.com to follow the development of this story. Whitsons continued and explained that when school is not in session and \u201ca team member is not working (or not receiving pay), team members can, and do, apply for unemployment benefits.\u201d \u00a0 \u201cMs. Martin\u2019s statement that she is losing 11% of her income is intentionally misleading since she does not take into account the income she receives from unemployment benefits,\u201d according to Whitsons. The board\u2019s June 27 vote came after a series of comments made my cafeteria workers from the district. Karen Morierty, who has worked at Shelton High School as a lunch lady for 20 years, said her hope was for the school board to delay the renewal of the contract until the group of cafeteria workers were able to reach a negotiation with Whitsons. Representative for the group of cafeteria workers, also known as Local 217, Ian Dunn said the average Shelton family should care about this effort to support because it directly concerns them. \u201cThese are Shelton moms, their kids went through Shelton schools. This is a job that many people depend on to get health insurance for their family. These are modest jobs, but it\u2019s a good solid job that you can provide for your family with,\u201d said Dunn. \u201cThese shouldn\u2019t be fast food jobs, with fast food wages. These are kids. They deserve real food, and real food is real work.\u201d Gioiello said it\u2019s unfortunate that the board keeps finding itself in positions where it\u2019s required to make a vote that results in one party being a \u201closer.\u201d \u201cWe do that with the budget and we did it over the buses and now we\u2019re being asked to do it again,\u201d said Gioiello. \u201cIt would be wonderful if we could postpone this vote until after they have their meeting on July 2\u2026 It\u2019s pretty much a decision where we either sign the contract and guarantee the kids have food next year or we don\u2019t sign the contract and we\u2019re sitting in violation of state requirements.\u201d Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet said the district is required by state law to have a state approved food service by the end of the fiscal year, which was June 30. \u201cWe\u2019d be out of compliance and would potentially be putting ourselves in a situation where we would have to go out to bid,\u201d said Clouet. \u201cGoing out to bid sounds easy, but it\u2019s not. Going out to bid would also require a review of any new bidder, which could take up to 60 days. We could end up with no or less than quality food service.\u201d Clouet said he\u2019s hopeful that the board\u2019s vote to approve the renewal of Whitson\u2019s contract will lead to a \u201cfair solution\u201d to the issue between the company and its Shelton employees\u2019 union. Gioiello added that if contract negotiations with the cafeteria workers does not resolve soon, he will not vote to approve that Whitsons remain in Shelton when they come to renew next year.