Training Plans in the Real World

In the November 2014 issue of School Nutrition, author Penny McLaren talks to school nutrition directors about putting together effective training plans. In print, read about how Julie Boettger, PhD, RD, put together a plan for School City of Hammond, Ind. Here, learn about how Judy Lee of Dickinson (Texas) Independent School District and Sandra Lee of Manatee County School, Bradenton, Fla., each developed a training plan for their districts.

Dickinson (Texas) Independent School District
Judy Lee, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Dickinson (Texas) Independent School District, ties her training program to incentive pay. Apprentices who work three hours a day can earn Level I credentials and earn an additional $0.75 cents per hour. Technicians earning Level II credential receive an additional $1.50 per hour. Level III gives assistant managers an additional $2 per hour. All managers are required to be qualified at Level IV and must be recommended for the manager academy offered through their Texas region service center.

“It is a strong incentive,” Lee says of the pay increases. Food and Nutrition Services provides the financial support for the added pay, which the district supports. Classes are held after the school day is over. The district pays for all training. Employees are not charged to attend classes in district. If an employee wants to finish faster than they can through district training, they can take outside classes and pay their own way, and must have the course of study approved in advance.

The training plan has evolved over several years, and it does change a little each year, Lee says. Apprentice staff members have to take 32 hours of training, including food safety, sanitation, fire safety, fall prevention, and customer service. For the Level II, employees take five food preparation and production courses and also learn cashiering, details about reimbursable meals and an introduction to computers and email. They require all full-time employees to take ServeSafe classes, while all part-time staff can take the course, but it is not required.

Lee believes the key to success is that managers and supervisors are the trainers. Supervisors help managers with development and planning of the curriculum for their courses. During the year, supervisors teach classes after the work day. “The managers enjoy teaching,” says Lee. “It adds to their credibility. I think they do an amazing job.” An equipment use and maintenance course is co-taught by the district’s appliance technician and manager, and Lee says has prolonged the life of kitchen equipment.

She also keeps class tracking simple. Every qualified employee has to get eight hours of training each year. “We track in-house so we know who has earned a Level I, II, III or IV,” she says. “We require eight hours yearly in the classroom to renew the Level of Achievement. This is due on July 1 for everybody. The state has different requirements, but it is much easier for us to require everyone to meet the continuing education requirements on the same date.”

Manatee County Schools, Bradenton, Fla.
Sandra Ford, SNS, director of Food and Nutrition Services, Manatee County Schools, Bradenton, Fla., has an annual training plan that varies from year to year. This year, for example, they added more HACCP training after realizing that because of staff turnover, remaining staff did not have strong enough training in that area.

Ford, a past president of SNA and a 2014 Silver Plate winner, starts the planning each spring doing a needs assessment. Rather than a “pen and paper” exercise, they begin by looking at performance evaluations and determining where staff may need more training to overcome any limitations. Then, during the summer months, they develop the training plan. Ford finds, for example, that staff always needs refresher training on weights and measures.

Almost 10 years ago Ford added training requirements into the job descriptions for staff. That means that staff members attend the training because they have to as part of their jobs. They are paid for two in-service days per year, which run from 8 a.m. to 1noon, so those who work only four hours can then go home, and those who work longer go back to their schools to finish the day.

Customizing the program by dividing into employee groups makes the training successful, notes Ford. Sessions are divided by grade level, with three overall groups, of elementary school workers, middle school workers and high school staff in their own training sessions. Elementary school staff gathers at six different sites, middle schools have three sites and high school staff meets in one school, but they break into two smaller groups at the one site. The language and activities are keyed to the appropriate grade level. The key is to break into small groups of about 20, even though everyone gets the same training. Ford supplies all the materials for the training, including course guidance and handouts. Managers who have been trained in the curriculum then conduct the training. The format allows each group to share easily with others in the small groups.

“Over the past 10 years, we have continued to move down a path of increased training,” says Ford. “We have improved and made our kitchens more consistent because of training. I can feel confident about every kitchen in the district. It is safe for me to take the media to any school in the district, or the superintendent. I don’t have to worry about what they will encounter. Training is why that happens.”

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