False and defamatory charges


To the Editor:

I have read and heard with increasing disgust the destructive methods employed in the campaign to build a new kitchen at the West Tisbury School. It would be nice to think the numerous inaccuracies have been made in good faith, but I do not believe this to be true. There has been a deliberate distortion of facts to create drama and action. This is nothing more than a dirty campaign, created by a few people whose agendas are wholly self-serving.

Claims have been made in public meetings and on various websites that are not only inaccurate but defamatory. These have been made by people who are both ignorant of the laws concerning the safety of food, its preparation, transport and service, and clearly have malicious intent.

There appears to be two types of people involved in this campaign: those who genuinely believe that having a professional kitchen in the West Tisbury School will be beneficial to the students and those who see it as benefitting themselves. I suggest those genuine in their goals distance themselves from the destructive group. This is a small Island and memories are long.

Concerning this decision, I urge you to carefully consider the source(s) of the information you have heard and read. Consider the motives of the author/speaker and their qualifications for their remarks. Claiming to have specific knowledge, ability, or experience does not make it so.

ServSafe is the code by which the health department and its agents regulate dining establishments. The criticisms concerning the safety of the food we serve are contrary to the ServSafe code, and the people making these accusations need to familiarize themselves with this. The ServSafe code specifically limits access to a kitchen in order to reduce the possible contamination of food. Have the people who have “tested” the food at the West Tisbury School washed their hands properly upon entering the kitchen, worn appropriate hair protection and shoes, used the ServSafe specified thermometers that were clean, disinfected, and properly calibrated before use? And finally, who gave them permission to perform these tests?

I am a member of the team at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School kitchen. There are seven of us and we work under the direction of Leslie Floyd. We are employed by Chartwells, a company that has been appointed by the Martha’s Vineyard school district. Our day begins at 6 am, and we prepare approximately 800 meals a day for four different locations. At about 9 am and sometimes as late as 9:20 am, we receive a call from West Tisbury giving us the number of orders for the day. By 9:35 am, as many as 185 meals are packed in appropriate containers, and our driver leaves to deliver them.

We cannot make your children like each and every meal we prepare. I am sure they have commented negatively on plenty of meals they are served at home. However, we are absolute in our commitment to provide appetizing, nutritious, and varied meals for your children. Yes, we have made some mistakes. Yes, not everything is wonderful. We work as well as we can within the constraints of budget, time, equipment, etc.

I feel a public apology is owed, primarily to Leslie Floyd and secondarily to her team. The attacks on her professional reputation are unfounded, defamatory, and malicious in nature. The attackers appear to believe that the only way to achieve their goals is through a campaign of dramatic hyperbole. Perhaps this group believes that the only way to persuade the voters to approve the expenditure of close to $200,000 is to convince them their children are in danger.

The truth is far from what you have been led to believe. Leslie Floyd, a long-time Island resident, took over as director of dining services in October of 2010. She has instituted enormous, positive changes in the food service program. West Tisbury students now enjoy three or four menu choices daily instead of one, including vegetarian options. Leslie also convinced Chartwells to allow local produce to be purchased, although the local farms did not meet the certification requirements of Chartwells. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute as a candidate of distinction. Not only her culinary education but her business acumen from many years in the corporate world have enabled her to create a school lunch program to be proud of, and she is just getting started.

To those people who have made false and misleading statements to the public, you are entitled to your own opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts. Stop biting the hand that feeds your children.

Pamela Spencer