A $14,000 espresso machine made no coffee but brewed plenty of controversy in the Castro Valley Unified School District (CVUSD). School board members unanimously approved the purchase of the machine on Sept. 12, resulting in an overwhelming backlash from parents and residents. The district put the purchase on hold on Sept. 25.
The CVUSD released a statement on the decision, saying, “Our community hears us when we ask for their support and, in turn, we must hear them when they raise questions and concerns. I hope the decision to revisit the purchase reflects our commitment to be responsible partners with our community members and staff.”
According to FAQs released by the CVUSD, the espresso machine was intended as part of a catering service being developed by the Child Nutrition Department, a program aimed to create money for the district spending budget. Without the service, the department would not be able to make up for its operating costs, and the expense would need to be covered by the general fund, the reserve also used to purchase classroom materials and other educational supplies.
The catering program would be used to provide food and refreshments to district events such as school workshops and board committee meetings. These events have previously been catered by outside vendors. By having its own program, the district intended to cut costs.
The machine in question, officially called the Schaerer Coffee Art, would have been used to make coffee, tea, apple cider, to steam milk and to heat water. The Schaerer web site says “all trendy coffee beverages can be produced by just pressing one single button,” but school board member Janice Friesen, who spoke on behalf of the board, maintained that there would be no gourmet drinks produced. If you know someone that loves coffee get them one these aritisan coffee gifts.
“It (the machine) just happens to be called ‘espresso,’ ” she said. “We’re not talking lattes or mochas.”
The catering service itself will be in the CVHS cafeteria, although the district says the program won’t disrupt the students’ meals, and coffee wouldn’t have been sold to students.
Friesen also pointed out that a major reason the espresso machine specifically was purchased was because the current method of using regular coffee machines often blows the circuit breakers in the kitchens.
Many parents and students, however, were in uproar over the extraneous cost of the espresso machine, which totaled $14,099.47.
When the news broke of the decision, frustrated citizens took to the Castro Valley News Facebook page to voice their opinions. A former resident said, “An enormous amount of funds was put out for the enjoyment of the board and in no way was there any benefit to the schools or their students.” Another user stated that until the machine was returned, she will “never donate another dime to the CVUSD.”
Many others pointed out cheaper machines and drink options, and the overwhelming majority supported the return of the espresso machine.
Dot Theodore, a candidate for the upcoming school board election, agrees that the purchase would not have the most beneficial use of district money, and voices concern over the specifics of the catering program.
“The fact that the FAQs released by the district says the intended use is to expand catering services but does not clearly outline a plan to make this purchase profitable concerns me,” said Theodore.
According to Friesen, there will be more information about the catering program coming out soon from the CVUSD.
“There will be more information that will be coming out and a fuller development of the program,” she said. “I would ask for a little patience and a little more information than what can be done in a brief tweet or link.”
Although the machine is on hold, the catering program is here to stay, and all eyes will be on its future development.