Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Dec. 28, 2011) - The government of Guam's failure to properly oversee and manage the contractor that provides food services to 33 public schools is disturbing and yet all too familiar.

None of the cafeterias in those schools, which are operated by Sodexo Services Guam Inc., have sanitary permits. This is a clear violation of local law and could mean the cafeterias can be closed, which also could result in the closure of those 33 schools if the sanitary permits aren't obtained.

Billy Gipson, the district manager for Sodexo, said the company found out on Friday that the Department of Public Health and Social Services needed health certificate information for some of the company's employees. He said, to his knowledge, all cafeteria workers have up-to-date certificates.

Public Health officials said, while all the cafeterias operated by Sodexo passed pre-operation inspections -- except John F. Kennedy High School's cafeteria, which hasn't been turned over to the company -- not all paperwork for the sanitary permits was received. The agency also said it didn't give Sodexo a deadline for turning in that paperwork.

So why did it take an entire semester for Public Health to finally push the issue? Why didn't the agency set a deadline and follow up with the school meals contractor?

And where was the Guam Department of Education in this process? Why didn't it raise a red flag about the cafeterias lacking sanitary permits? Why didn't it push the contractor to turn in any needed paperwork earlier?

Students return to the public schools on Jan. 3. Public Health has said it expects all 33 cafeterias to be compliant before that time. But what if one or more cafeterias aren't compliant by then? What are the school system's contingency plans? Are there any contingency plans at all?

The bottom line is the Guam Department of Education and Public Health both failed in their duty and responsibility to ensure the safety of public school students by failing to take action on this earlier. The heads of both agencies need to find out why that happened, and take steps to prevent it from recurring.

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