Bald Eagle

For chef, experiences out of kitchen were most rewarding

Mark Ott spent 11 years in the Bald Eagle Area School District.
Mark Ott spent 11 years in the Bald Eagle Area School District. Photo provided

Mark Ott: Former food service director, Bald Eagle Area School District


That’s former Bald Eagle Area food service director Mark Ott’s official title.

But this school year he retired after 11 years in the district.

“I love the food scene and I love the people,” Ott said. “I made the decision (to retire) when I found my job was more work than something I used to enjoy. … There was a time I was involved with the students and staff, but the last few years had me behind a desk doing government paperwork. That’s not what I signed up for.”

The change, he said, came about five years ago when state and federal law changed regarding food service in schools.

“The paperwork and the regulations were extraordinary,” Ott said. “It used to be rare when I would just be at my desk.”

His primary responsibilities were writing a menu, balancing a food service budget, writing grants, filling out government paperwork and managing a food service team.

“Basically, I just looked at what needed to get done,” Ott said.

But it was the things outside of the kitchen that Ott said were the most rewarding.

“There isn’t a kid or teacher I don’t know,” Ott said. “That was the best part — being involved in the school. I’d sit with them at lunch, and see what they liked or didn’t like, and tweak what we needed to, to make sure it’s something they enjoyed.”

One of the first grants he applied for — and received — was a $7,000 Healthy High Five grant that helped fund a series of gardens at the high school.

He helped plant five garden beds, and then used leftover funds to have an orchard of apples, peaches, pears and cherry trees.

It started with 25 trees, and increased to 38 orchard trees that are now in the hands of the school’s FFA club.

“I needed to hand it over and feel like it’s in good hands,” Ott said.

But while he’s retired, Ott isn’t going to be bored.

He’s also the president of the Howard Fire Company, a fire police member, firefighter, water rescue technician, and recently passed his EMT certifications.

He said he also plans to work one day a week at Brother’s Pizza in Howard.

“It’s not something I’m familiar with, so I always wanted to see how it is (spinning) the dough,” Ott said as he made the hand motions.

Ott formerly worked at Lock Haven University overseeing its dining halls.

He is also thinking of becoming a substitute in the district.

Additional Bald Eagle Area retirees

▪  Linda Bumbarger, learning support assistant, Wingate Elementary. With the district for 12 years

▪  Nancy DeLuca, special education teacher, Bald Eagle Area Middle and High School. With the district for 16 years

▪  Nancy Letterman, food service, Wingate Elementary

▪  Dennis Miller, maintenance. With the district for 31 years