Principal and former coach accused of bilking cheerleader funds

November 16, 2009
Atascadero cheerleaders

Atascadero cheerleaders


Parents are accusing the principal of Atascadero High School and a former cheerleading coach of misappropriating monies specified for cheerleader uniforms, camp and supplies for the school’s cheerleading squads.

The accusations include misappropriation of funds, abuse of power and intimidation, as well as punishing the cheerleaders for the financial mess that occurred under the school’s watch.

The parents say Atascadero Principal EJ Rossi refused to refund payments made for items the students never received, transferred the students’ previously individual recorded cheerleader accounts into a general unrestricted student body account, refused to allow parents to inspect the books, and covered up alleged misdeeds in order to protect the school’s reputation.

When asked about it, Rossi rejected the parents’ complaints.

“We need to clear up the parents’ misconceptions,” Rossi said. “There are no problems with the cheer accounts. We had to cut their season in half because we can’t afford the coach’s $2,000 stipend (separate from cheerleading funds).”

The cheerleading squads were allowed to perform for the football season, but won’t cheer on the school’s other team for the rest of the school year, the principal said.

Even though the 50 varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders spent months fundraising to help reduce the approximately $1,000 for the cost of their uniforms, supplies, camp, and fees, the cheerleaders were the only teams that received massive cuts this year.

Rossi canceled half of the cheerleaders’ season, prohibited at the beginning of school the cheerleaders from wearing their uniforms to school, canceled competitions, confiscated some of their equipment, and downgraded the team from an athletic organization to a club.

These actions have left the parents hopping mad.

“I think it is ridiculous for these girls to put out all this hard work then half way through they cancel the season,” said a parent who asked to be unnamed to protect her daughter’s chance to make the team next year. ”It wouldn’t happen to the football team.”

Parents informed Rossi more than a year ago that they had discovered that former Atascadero High cheerleading coach Tori Loney had overcharged for uniforms and supplies and that they believed she was misappropriating donations.chear5l

“I think there was between $5,000 to $10,000 in the fund-raising monies missing last year,” a parent said. “And we were triple charged for things.”

Following their meeting with the principal, parents said Loney told students, “Your parents are causing too much trouble. If they don’t quit (complaining), you won’t be on the team next year.”

“He did not deny that the girls were being overcharged,” a parent said. “He said Loney wasn’t supposed to be handling the money, but not to worry, that he was taking care of everything. He refused to let us see the books.”

Rossi countered those accusation by saying the squads’ financial books were audited and that no problems were discovered in the cheerleading account.

However, district officials said they are working to clear up a number of bookkeeping issues created by Loney.

“There was a bookkeeping nightmare we had to deal with,” said Katie Horton, executive assistant to the superintendent of Atascadero schools. “We have to clean up some of the messes that were left. We don’t run school events so sloppily.”

CalCoastNews researched the cost of one of the required items, a silver-hair bow decorated with six small plastic rhinestones. Though the students were charged $15 per bow, the cost of the bow including shipping, tax, and rhinestones is currently $6.25.

Loney has denied allegations that she mishandled monies.

“I couldn’t imagine there is money missing,” Loney said. “I gave Rossi the printouts for every girl.”

Another bone of contention centers around what happened to donations for spa cards. Cheerleaders solicited donations for vouchers to be used at local spas with a portion of the monies to be used to fund the teams’ cheerleading activities.

The cards were to be delivered the week before Mother’s Day this year. However, the cards were not purchased and the funds are unaccounted for, parents maintain.

“There were separate reports to show where the spa cards go,” Loney said. “As the school switched coaches, the money went to (current cheer coach Irene) McDaniel.”

Loney added that the funds for the spa cards were sent to McDaniel as the new cheerleading coach.

For her part, McDaniel, who took over the coaching three months after Mother’s Day in August, could not be reached for comment about the parents’ complaints.

In the past, most parents paid for cheerleading expenses up front. In some instances those cheerleaders who performed fund-raising activities, were refunded some or all of their charges.

Each girl was provided a cheerleading account record that listed purchases, payments, and fundraising monies. If they raised more than the current season’s expenses, they could use the overflow to cover their next season’s expenses or purchase extras such as cheer pajamas.

Parents have asked Rossi to refund some monies, such as the $25 paid to cover the required makeup kit they never received. While he paid a few parents back, he has refused to reimburse the majority of parents.

In addition, parents question his decision to move monies donated to their children, such as a grandparent donating $200 to cover part of her granddaughter’s uniform cost, to a general student account to pay for other school needs.

Rossi told CalcoastNews that he would not be refunding any more monies to parents or donors.

“I’ve spoken to parents about what they were told and that this is how we are doing it now,” Rossi said. “To the best of our records, everything has been rectified.”

When asked about why some parents have not been reimbursed for the makeup kits, Rossi replied, “I have no answer to that.”

However, parents and former coach Loney question the legality of not returning payments for items that were not provided.

“It is illegal not to give money back,” said Loney, who added that as a former coach she knew the rules.

“You can’t refund donation money back to the girls, but up to the amount they raised should be given back. Because of Associated Student Body rules, it has to be refunded.”

The parents are also battling with Rossi over varsity cheer boxes (boxes the cheerleaders stand on during football games). Almost a dozen parents built their daughters’ wooden boxes so that the girls could retain them as souvenirs.

But the girls have been informed the boxes now belong to Atascadero High School, parents said.

“Rossi said that because the boxes are on school grounds, they are property of the school,” a parent said.

Rossi contended that, to his knowledge, none of the parents made the boxes and that they are school property.

But Rossi’s contentions haven’t satisfied the angry parents.

“I am angry that they not only stole from my daughter but also from her grandparents and the community members (who) supported her,” one outraged father said. “What kind of people steal from children?”

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Now that he’s fessed up and settled out of court, I guess minus signs mean you were right, give me more minuses, I like them, fraud lovers!

roger, you are a yes sir man!, “School Boards are where these battles need to be addressed… with people who have the students and not the individual empires of administrators close at heart.” SINCE YOU GET A PLUS 15 FOR THIS,can you explain it in detail for all us simple minded folk, that don’t just give, plus signs because we don’t understand something?

Cindy the parents should ask this question first, and hat’s off to the man who first asked it!

“What kind of people steal from children?” The bad kind, that’s who! Athletes aren’t nothing without cheerleaders! Hell throw the dress code out the window, let them get creative in homemaking and build their own outrages, original, outfits, to cheer in! Cut those costs in administration, by firing those involved in the defrauding of the cheerleaders. Hip, Hip. Hurray!

New employees rarely cost as much as crooked old ones, wonder how the bad apples liked that one! Go team, let off steam, get mean, cream the crooks, let’s see the books.

It seems to me that the parents of the cheerleaders should collectively arrange a meeting with the school board. They should also insist on an accounting of how the funds have been applied. If the coach was making over a $9.00 profit on the bows alone that would be $450.00. Start by asking where those funds went. Take some action and stand up for your teenagers and your pocketbooks. Parents need to teach teenagers how these things are addressed. Silence for fear of retaliation (like not getting on the squad next year) is the WRONG lesson.

If Rossi canceled their season and won’t let them cheer or take part in competitions, then why is the school keeping their varsity cheer boxes? Clearly the school has no use for them if their season is canceled. Why does Rossi want these high school girls boxes? What a small and petty man this Principal Rossi is!

OK. so many things to say about this. number one, as a former cheerleader, i know how hard we worked to fund raise to be able to go to camp, afford our uniforms, and support our so called “great high school” with its foot ball and basketball teams. those girls work their butts off every day to make that school look good. i left atascadero high school to go to Del Rio continuation high school because the atascadero high school is filled with drama like this. The teachers (not all, but most) don’t even care about the students “education,” all they care about is that whoppin’ check they get in the mail for standing in front of a classroom to tell students whats what. the education has gone to crap! People talk crap about Del Rio being a school for druggies, drop outs, ditchers, miss-behaved teens, but really, sit in on our classes at Del Rio and then sit in on a class at Atascadero High and tell me then who’s dumb. Del Rio is honestly, probably the best school in the AUSD! as for this cheer problem, this is all a big load of crap! yeah that’s right, i think the parents and cheerleaders should get what they deserve, which is the rest of the season to cheer, to be able to wear your uniforms at school, their MONEY, and to keep whatever THEY bought and/or made! cheerleaders have been able to wear their uniforms to school since cheer leading was invented. its tradition, its fun, its supportive. and for people to call cheer not a sport, you don’t have the slightest clue what your talking about because your head is stuck so far up your ass! put yourself in these girls’ shoes, they enjoy cheer, its their life practically (for most) and for any of this to be happening is sickening to me. if i was still a cheerleader at AHS i would be whooping some major principal ass right now! Rossi should resign from his position and let somebody who is honest and true to their school take his place because he is obviously doing a piss poor job at it! for all you cheerleaders who are suffering from this bullshit, i feel for you and i hope you all get what you worked so hard for! maybe this time people will keep dumb coaches like Tori away and keep Irene. she was my coach my freshman year and she was an amazing, hard working, and intelligent coach who did anything for her girls! im so glad im not stuck in all this drama but i definitely got the cheer leaders and parents backs cuz that is some messed up shit right there.

Where shall I begin….Let me start by saying I think EJ Rossi is an outstanding principal. And for the record Cheerleading parents seem to be over the top. That is vefied by former cheerleading parents. I understand you would like your lovely daughter to be classified as an Athlete I understand! But you know going in that Cheerleading is not considered a Sport in High School, so if you would like your daughter to be considered an Athlete, have her go out for the Football team. You are choosing to support the Football Team and CHEER them on as a CHEER leader… so start cheering for the Football Team and stop competing with them, football will always bring in more money than any other sport and that money is also used to help support other sports. So accept Football is the major money maker for the Athletic Program. Iam in support of all sports, but I am also realistic in knowing Football in Atascadero at least will always out weigh all over sports. That will never change so that just needs to be accepted.

As for Tori Loney if you actually think the way she behaved in front of those cheerleaders you do not understand the lines that should not be crossed via coach to cheerleader/student. Tori crossed the line. She may have been a greyhound through and through but she did not follow the rules it was Tori’s way or noway. There are policies in the work place Tori choose not to follow them. That was her choice and she is a grown adult who should have know the consequences for her actions.

To begin with, this is old news. Atascadero High School red-tagged its former cheerleading coach last spring. She is a dear, sweet, talented girl who was and remains highly thought of by the people who felt they had no choice but to let her go after a series of mistakes and judgment lapses. The decision was probably harder on them than it was on her. I can tell you from experience of having worked with school district boards of trustees and high school administrations throughout the county that Atascadero is at least as well-led as any high school on the Central Coast and I have confidence that if anything pertaining to this situation still has to be resolved, priority will go to the best interests of the students. Secondly, I would have hoped that this blog’s new editor would have guarded against shoddy reporting, but apparently that’s not the case. The quote from a school district spokesman, for example, is an complete fabrication and I’d wager it derived from a cheerleading parent rather than the actual source.

So what are they going to do about Rossi??

Nothing. Rossi isn’t the problem here. This is all about a disgruntled parent and bored blogger. Move along, folks.

I will be on the Dave Congalton KVEC show at 4 p.m. to discuss this issue. Turn your radio to 920 AM or listen live at