Camden's LEAP Academy and food service company issue statements on chef's $95k salary

Following my story Monday on LEAP Academy University Charter School’s executive chef receiving a $24,000 raise, the school put out a statement. However, I never received the statement until I was contacted today by the school’s food service company, Metz Culinary Management, which forwarded it to me.

In a statement of its own, the food company also seeks to clarify its involvement (or non-involvement) with LEAP Executive Chef Michele Pastorello’s $95,000 salary.

A board meeting is to be held tonight in which school officials have asked parents to attend to show support, according to a person who has received the e-mail.

Here is LEAP’s entire statement:

"LEAP Academy is proud of its longstanding success in providing the best education available to the children of Camden.

Part of that success is borne of its longstanding practice of transparency in its affairs.
Dr.Gloria Bonilla-Santiago has never hidden her committed relationship with Mr. Pastorello, and any suggestion to the contrary is false.

Her relationship with him has been properly disclosed in all required ethics filings for many years.

More fundamentally, Mr. Pastorello is not an employee of the LEAP Academy. His employer is a vendor of LEAP.

Any questions about his personal employment affairs are more appropriately posed to that employer.

When that vendor was considered to be engaged by LEAP to provide food services and nutritional education to LEAP’s students, Dr. Santiago properly refrained from voting and recused herself for the very reason that her committed partner might be effected.

Unlike what has been suggested by media accounts on this matter, Pastorello was not the only employee of the prior food service vendor to be offered the opportunity for employment with the new vendor. All then-existing food service personnel had the right of first refusal for their positions.

Likewise, with the transition to the new food service vendor, the services required by LEAP expanded to a growing student population and an additional facility."

My article in fact did mention that two other employees who were also required to be retained by Metz received small raises.

Here is the statement from Metz Culinary Management:

"Mr. Pastorello’s compensation for Fiscal Year 2013 was stipulated in the initial Request For Proposal (RFP) given to Metz Culinary Management and any other food service management company bidding for the LEAP Academy food service account. In that RFP, Mr. Pastorello and two other LEAP Academy employees were required to be retained at stipulated salaries by the approved food service management company. LEAP Academy's RFP stated the following:

‘Employees that the FSMC (Food Service Management Company) is required to retain must be retained at the FY (Fiscal Year) 13 (2013) hourly rate/salary plus benefits’

In this RFP, Mr. Pastorello was noted as a LEAP Academy employee that must be retained as an employee of the approved food service management company at a salary of $95,000, plus benefits, for Fiscal Year 2013. Metz Culinary Management did not have control over Mr. Pastorello’s compensation, or any other employee at LEAP Academy, based on the requirements stipulated in the RFP."

The LEAP Board of Trustees meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at LEAP Academy High School, 549 Cooper Street in Camden.