Coast Unified lunch policy rationalized

October 14, 2011

Chris Adams

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

A lawyer for Coast Unified School District’s board of trustees repeated his interpretation Thursday of how the children of district superintendent Chris Adams came to be included on the free lunch list.

Adams and his wife, Julie, an education consultant, report a combined, estimated monthly income of $26,000.

Roman Munoz, of the Sacramento law firm Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard, told a crowded board room that the form had been filled out by Mrs. Adams with the thought she was “doing her duty” as a parent, and the information on the form was subsequently misinterpreted by a clerk at the district.

According to Adams, his children never received a free meal from the program; several sources dispute his contention, however.

The incident has peeled back the veneer on an apparent pattern of data manipulation, using information gathered on the forms to qualify and apply for a wide variety of state and federal grants funds.

Many school districts in the state — including CUSD — encourage parents to fill out the free and reduced lunch applications, whether or not they think they qualify. In fact, the state’s Department of Education endorses the practice, even encouraging districts to have “signing parties” to facilitate a large percentage of parents completing the forms.

A designated district employee, then, determines which children qualify for the lunch program from the information garnered from the forms. A higher number of impoverished students means more federal money at year’s end.

There is little or no oversight at this point, because the data on the forms is protected by confidentiality laws.

Munoz questioned the appropriateness of the public release of the Adams’ form. He was asked by trustees to determine the source of the leak, and only later added an inquiry into the Adams’ inclusion on the free lunch list.

Jude Basile, who has children in the district, told the board that the form clearly indicates that filling it out is optional.

“The superintendent’s family was sent a letter by the district telling them they were accepted into  the Free Lunch program,” Basile said in follow-up comments. “The children were placed on the free lunch list at both the middle school and the grammar school. They were taken off the list after the superintendent’s application was ‘leaked’ to the county superintendent of education, and (Adams’) family received eligibility notification.”

Basile said questions remain:  “Why would the superintendent’s family file the application for free lunch, indicating income amounts that clearly would not make them eligible? Why submit the form at all? How was his family approved for free lunch?”

Basile suggested that a straight answer from Adams when the question first arose would have settled the issue. Instead, he said, the board initiated its search for the source of the so-called leak.


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korie

It doesn’t take much conjecture to conclude that Coast Unified is receiving a distorted amount of funding as compared to other schools in the county. I believe it is Mr Crockers job to advocate for all SLO County students and question the funding system which allows this. Why such a wealthy district would still have access to federal funds intended for struggling districts is beyond me and should be addressed.


It also appears that, as we are seeing on Wall Street, lack of oversight combined with access to large amounts of OPM (other peoples money) results in greed, stealing, waste etc. Can someone clarify how it is the Adams are making $25000ish a month? How does Mr Adams salary compare to an average superintendent of a similar sized district in CA? How much of that $25000 comes from Mrs Adams job as an “education consultant” and how much of this “consulting” is done for the district in which her husband is superintendent? For that matter, how many other districts even have an education consultant on the payroll? I’ve never heard of such a thing in a district as tiny as this.


It is entirely appropriate for all of us to question this and make these people accountable in how they spend our money and how the funds are divided in educating our kids. This is not strictly a Cambria issue and I don’t know this guy from Adam (ugh) so there is no witch hunt from me. Our schools are struggling and every penny should be allocated in such a way that we give our kids and our state the greatest chance of success. I wish more people in the county became “obsessed” with this. Except the Trib won’t report it so it will not reach the larger audience unless all of us open our mouths.


asthecrowphlies

Great post . If Mrs. Adams stopped directly working and billing Coast Unified under her husband two years ago , is she working for them though a third party now ? Also , how many years was she working and billing under her husband before they ( ? ) considered this inappropriate ?


asthecrowphlies

If the amount of money is correct that has been mentioned in these articles that Mrs. Adams makes and the majority of that money came from the Coast District . Granted , there are a lot of ifs but play along, here is what I hear playing out in someone’s head .


IN HIS HEAD : Now they pay me lots and lots and lots of money to make these decisions , ssssoooo leeeet meeeeeee seeee . I pay my wife enough to hire two people full time or I just keep paying my wife all this consulting money. I can’t be wrong they pay me all this money and she is my wif………..ha ha ha . Just levity


isoslo

So to make matters worse the district has now spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and public relations to tell us it was a simple misunderstanding and the fault of some unnamed clerk. Anyone who believes this pile of horse manure must have flunked out of elementary school.


cmbrian

The board said it will cost “less than $5000”. There were 2 lawyers at the board meeting from Sacramento, you do the math…mileage, accomdations, hourly rate, it all adds up pretty quickly. Plus, they are still investigating the leak, how many billable hours will they get out of that??


asthecrowphlies

I am still holding out that the leakee will be protected by the Whistle Blower Law . But then again I guess Coast Unified is not too civilized to just kill the messenger . After all , this person(s) does appear to have higher morals than Crocker and Adams .


stopagenda21

Too much free food at school may be the reason why we so many fat kids.


oh come on I know your laughing


rogerfreberg

Oh, it is always interesting to speculate on the motivations of someone submitting an application for a free lunch program for their children when most of the children come from homes less well off… unless they thought it was something ‘free’ they could receive.


The problem here is that we want those in leadership programs to lead by example… and NOT BE the first person at the head of the lunch line.


MaryMalone

EXACTLY, Roger. Mr. Adams was in charge of the school lunch program! The example he set was one of avarice, greed and fraud.


Glad to see he’s priming the next generation of Gearharts to run our County.


seniorcit

Why fill a form out like that knowing-KNOWING you do not qualify? Guilty as charged.


Typoqueen

“Many school districts in the state — including CUSD — encourage parents to fill out the free and reduced lunch applications, whether or not they think they qualify. In fact, the state’s Department of Education endorses the practice, even encouraging districts to have “signing parties” to facilitate a large percentage of parents completing the forms.”


Where does this info come from? Who told CCN about these parties and and who said that they encouraged parents to fill out the apps? Please quote the Department of Education policy that states this. Maybe it was someplace in these articles, perhaps I was in a hurry and didn’t see it. But lets not forget the figures that the supe called in about that were way off.


I know that I’m the odd man out here but IMO this smells like a witch hunt. Adams said that his kids never received free lunches. Cindy said in a previous thread that they had received free lunches but I haven’t seen this by any inside sources, is this true or not? This could have been a simple case of Adams putting $26,000 a year as opposed to $26K a month. She might have seen the form, the same form that all of us see and didn’t read it carefully and just buzzed through it, perhaps she got her numbers transposed. When I get those packets I skim through them, I don’t even read half of the info, there’s a lot of information in those packets I can see how one could make a mistake. We get bombarded with forms at the beginning of the year.


When I see Bobfromslo going against what I’m talking about it makes me thing perhaps I’m wrong, I usually agree with him. But I am still missing too much on this to jump on the bandwagon.


Cindy

I did not say that the Adams children received free lunches. I don’t know if they do or don’t. I said they were qualified to receive free lunches and that the higher the % of students that qualify as low income the more funds the school garners from the various (25) government programs that are intended for low income students.


Looks like the Adam’s kids have been included in those rolls for several years, if I’m reading this article right.


“The children were placed on the free lunch list at both the middle school and the grammar school. They were taken off the list after the superintendent’s application was ‘leaked’ to the county superintendent of education, and (Adams’) family received eligibility notification.”


hatethebs

I don’t see where it says for years. It seems you are not reading the article right. More conjecture.


MaryMalone

It can be read two ways, you know. It may be YOU are not reading the article right and issuing more “conjecture.”


hatethebs

No, I don’t think so. Pretty sure it does not say “for several years” and that one of his kids attends the middle school and one the grammar school. How can that straightforward comment be read to include “for several years”? And there is no conjecture coming from me–I wait for the facts.


You’re pretty much obsessed with this, aren’t you?


MaryMalone

You are “PRETTY SURE” it does not say “for several years,” and that one of his kids attends the middle school and one the grammar school. How can that straightforward comment be read to include ‘for several years’?


You can’t be bothered to scroll up and review what you thought you read before you tell another person, “…I don’t see where it says for years. It seems you are not reading the article right. More conjecture.”


Pay attention, please.


—————


ISSUE #1: YEARS ADAMS’ KIDS ATTENDED SCHOOL AND RECEIVED FREE LUNCHES.


Definition of “several”:

sev·er·al (svr-l, svrl)

adj.

1. Being of a number more than two or three but not many: several miles away.

[The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.}


———–


ISSUE #2: YEARS KIDS WERE IN SCHOOL.


“The children were placed on the free lunch list at both the middle school and the grammar school. They were taken off the list after the superintendent’s application was ‘leaked’ to the county superintendent of education, and (Adams’) family received eligibility notification.”


The children were placed on the free lunch list at both the middle school and grammar school.” Perhaps close affiliates of the Adams know the ages of the children, but for those of us that aren’t BFFs with the Adams, we have no knowledge of the ages of the children.


Therefore, the sentence could easily be interpreted (as I did at first) that both children were put on the list, both in the middle school and both in the grammar school.


In that scenario, they could easily have both (together) been on the list for several years–see the definition of “several,” above, since you obviously didn’t bother to even ascertain the definition of the word before calling another poster on their interpretation of the post in question– (i.e., 2 years of one child in one school, and two years of one child in the other school), or both students for two years together in one school, and two years together in another school.


ISSUE #3: “And there is no conjecture coming from me–I wait for the facts.<


Pardon, you didn’t wait for facts. You assumed you knew the undisclosed details and then accused another poster of being wrong.


What really stinks is that you didn’t even bother re-reading the article first, but just accused based on–what?


ISSUE #4: You’re pretty much obsessed with this, aren’t you?”


I’m pretty much attracted to topics where paid public officials screw over those they are supposed to serve to get advantages they–and their children–do not deserve.


I’m also pretty much attracted to topics where false accusations are made.


BINGO. You double-downed on your post.


Also, your attempt to shift blame to me for your own inability to take 2 minutes to re-read an article upon which you criticized a poster.


For the love of god, you couldn’t even bother to look up the definition of “several”?


The article does not say whether both children received free lunches while both were in


hatethebs

What are you going on about? WHERE does it say “several” in the original article? I did read it and that word isn’t there. You can’t just fill in the blanks wherever you aren’t sure about something. That is happening a lot. State the facts and only the facts. There is obviously a lot that you aren’t privy to, but you are still so sure you know what’s really happened. That’s called conjecture. Look it up, but I don’t need the definition.


Typoqueen

I’m with you on this one hatehebs. I read that paragraph as one child in elementary and one in Jr. high. I also agree that there is a lot of conjecture.


I feel that this could very well be just a misunderstanding. It seems like people want to prove guilt instead of innocence. To me this seems like it could all be an honest mistake, I might be wrong but I’d rather judge to give the benefit of the doubt to the Adams. As much as I like CCN, this is one of those articles that I’m disappointed in. It looks like a witch hunt. I know that I don’t read all the paperwork in those packets sent home the first week of school, it’s a very hectic time and the more kids you have the more paperwork there is to fill out, it’s really time consuming and boring paperwork.


MaryMalone

Conjecture? Just about every scandal outed by journalism starts with a “conjecture.”


I do take exception to the term “witch hunt.” Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition:


——–

“witch hunt

noun

Definition of WITCH HUNT

1: a searching out for persecution of persons accused of witchcraft

2: the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (as political opponents) with unpopular views

— witch–hunt·er noun

— witch–hunt·ing noun or adjective” /i>

(http://tinyurl.com/3wy5vlq)


———-


Are you kidding me? Do you think the majority of the the peeps posting here (especially the regulars) started out with a vendetta against Adams and his wife, and then looked for issues to attack them with? (see definition #2)


In “witch hunts,” the accusers start out with a person and often a charge (i.e., “the Adams” and “fraud”), and then keep digging until they find something to hang their vendetta (and target) on.


What Nixon attempted to do with Daniel Ellsberg in the Watergate break-in was a “witch hunt.” Following up on tip (in this case, form(s) showing the Adams had signed their kids up for the federal subsidized lunch program) is just a journalist doing their job.


Are you actually accusing Blackburn of orchestrating a “witch hunt” of the Adams?


That has not occurred here at all, IMO.


Before this story broke I wouldn’t have known who Adams was if I backed over him in my jaguar. My hot-button issue is ethics, and that is what interested me in the Adams story.


In addition, most scandal stories don’t start out without solid proof. That’s why we have investigative journalists. Perps seldom wrap up the documentation of their crimes in neat little boxes to hand to the journalist.


Whether something is conjecture or not is a subjective call because people may not agree with each other regarding how much evidence moves a story from “conjecture” or to “plausible” and then to “proven.”


Was Karen Velie on a “witch hunt” when she resolutely investigated the SSLOCSD scandal?


CCN is doing what it always does: research the important issues that often the Trib and its like will not cover.


Here at CCN, you’ve been quite the advocate for investigating reported government-politician malfeasance…until it came to the Cambria school district.


Cambria’s school district is not the Baby Jesus. There are people working there and, as long as there are people involved, there is the possibility of fraud, graft, etc.


You’ve stated you have a long relationship with the school district, having kids in different schools at different times.


Perhaps you’re a little too close to the scandal’s subject to be objective?


Cindy

They were on the list both at the grammar school and at the middle school.


Typoqueen

Do they have one child in grammer school and one in middle school? I think the issue is that you made it sound as if they were on the free lunch program for years.


Cindy

If that were the case, I would think she would have had to fill out a form for each school. The forms are confidential and I doubt they share forms and packets between schools.


MaryMalone

I don’t know if that is true, Cindy. They have the right to share the info with other agencies…why not other schools?


Cindy

I find it highly doubtful that the individual schools agree that regardless of the number of children in a family attending other schools that only one packet per family is necessary. Maybe in the same school but not different schools. I’m sure they can share forms but I doubt it’s encouraged or appreciated. No doubt each individual school wants it’s own original signed forms for each child who attends.


Typoqueen

“Here at CCN, you’ve been quite the advocate for investigating reported government-politician malfeasance…until it came to the Cambria school district.”


The comment thread was full up there so I’m commenting on this here.


I really like the investigating reporting done by the CCN. I’m glad and I appreciate that we have such great reporting in such a small community. But that doesn’t mean that I agree 100% of the time. I think that sometimes after working hard on an investigation whether it be conducted by police or reporters that it’s hard to back down if found to be wrong. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that what Blackburn wrote isn’t for the most part accurate, but there are flaws in some of this story so it makes me wonder how many other flaws are in the story. I haven’t seen evidence of most of these claims. This bit about having signing parties seems way too over the top, it makes me wonder if that lady was full of cr@p, perhaps disgruntled, so I would have liked to see a few people that attended such parties interviewed. Again, I can absolutely see how Adams could have filled out and messed up the numbers on that form. On the other hand, I don’t have proof to my back my concerns either, so I’m not going to swear to what I’m saying as being accurate either. There are still left open questions that need to be looked into IMO before this is a real story. I believe that before you accuse someone of fraud that you should have concrete proof.


“Perhaps you’re a little too close to the scandal’s subject to be objective?”


Maybe but although I do have a close relationship with our schools I have also had many a run in with them. No one speaks out more against our local school board and the bureaucracy than me, I feel our school board is a bunch of fools. But I usually try not just on this topic but on others to make judgements unless there is a ton of proof. Many years ago I had my name rubbed in dirt over accusations that weren’t true so I know what it’s like and I’ve seen many news stories that were not accurate and that really could have damaged peoples reputations. If the Adams are innocent then their name has been tarnished and dragged through the mud now, it’s too late to take it back now. IMO, the only think that I know for sure is that the Adams ether by accident or deliberately put the wrong figure on one of many forms. I find it hard to believe that they would purposely put $26.000 yearly instead of monthly, my gosh they work in the district it’s just too blatant and the numbers are so close. When filling it out they could have easily misread the form and thought that it said monthly instead of yearly.


MaryMalone

Re: Cindy’s last paragraph…


The kids were on the list until that fact became public knowledge. The first, and major response, by the district as been CYA.


So we’re back to the story that Mrs. Adams filled out the forms? They would be more credible if they could settle on one story and stick to it.


The fact that other sources indicate that the kids were receiving subsidized lunches, IMO, carries more weight than the statements from the Adams, the ones under fire for this fraud on a federal program.


asthecrowphlies

Cindy , the heck with the kids eating or not , they are just pons . I am more interested in the play between Crocker , Adams , and Adams wife . Like how the money flows from Crocker and the district to Adams’ wife thru Adams himself and over how much time .


They are manipulating Federal money by robbing the poor schools and giving it to their better off school . Also , are some of the funds being skimmed ? Hey somebody has to ask the question out loud , the air does need to be cleared one way or an other .


Daniel Blackburn

Posted Oct. 10 by CalCoastNews: “School lunches open Pandora’s Box

“State education officials defend the current practices.

‘I think all districts nationwide encourage families to fill out the applications, so that they have on record who is qualified for free and reduced fee meals,’ said Janet Jendrejack, manager of the state department of education’s Nutrition Services Division. ‘Some districts even have application parties to encourage everyone to fill out the forms.’”


MaryMalone

This is just ridiculous. The Adams and their district cronies will keep you wound up going around and around in circles for years, if you have the energy and attention span.


And Ms. Jendrejack’s statement about signing parties is absolutely ludicrous. How clueless is she? Does everyone connected to the education system have this insidious aura of entitlement oozing out of them?


The program is for kids whose parents qualify because of low income or other issues. In other words, the program is sold to us as being for the kids of the “poor folks.” The districts say they can’t afford to pay for the subsidized program out of their budgets…but they can pay for “signing parties”?


WTF? And Jendrejack is so clueless as to openly admit that the districts that can’t afford to provide subsidized lunches for the kids of “poor folks” have enough money to throw “signing parties” for ALL parents to convince them to fill out the forms so the district can get more money?


Take the danged money from the parties and pay for the lunches, and call it a fracking day already.


Really, as far as government nincompoopery and hiding-the-biscuit games go, this takes the cake.


Typoqueen

This just seems like it’s too blatant, and an incredibly stupid statement by Jendrejack. I have had more kids through the school system than most, I have never had anyone encourage my family to fill out those forms so this statement, “I think all districts nationwide encourage families to fill out the applications…” alone shows that for some reason Jenrejack is disingenuous. Volunteering in two schools for numerous years and helping sort and go through these packets with the lunch apps I have never heard any parent mention this encouragement let alone signing parties, the signing party things just seems too crazy and out there to believe. I have had to make hundreds of calls to parents because they didn’t fill out the parent consent and emergency cards correctly but there were never that many lunch apps. returned and never any issues with the ones that came in. I can absolutely see how any parent could accidentally fill that form out, I believe that I’ve started to fill it out a number of times.


MaryMalone

You would automatically fill out a form without reading it, even if it asked for your social security number?


Typoqueen

I might still have that form in my school paperwork, I’ll look for it later. I can absolutely see how someone would fill out the form by accident though, I remember someone calling me about that form asking me if they should fill it out. I know there is a ton of paper work and if you have have kids then you must fill out this redundant paperwork for each kid over and over (not sure if you apply for free lunches if you must submit an app for each kid, I’ll look into that). I know that it is a pain in the arse to fill it all out and you usually only have a few day to do so.


hatethebs

Jude Basile’s statement at the end of this article suggests that an actual question was asked of Superintendent Adams. So someone DID sit down with Mr. Adams and ask him to explain this BEFORE the flyer was passed around the town by a community member and all of the conjecture began? If not, then what question was he supposed to give a “straight answer” to?


MaryMalone

Good catch. Thumbs up.


racket

Did Munoz have any luck determining who leaked the confidential and personal information?


fish

Munoz spent uncounted hours and time in Cambria working on this – money that should be spent toward education in the classrooms. Shame on this district for creating this expense and drama. Mr. Adams know his confidential employees have loose lips. What goes around comes around Mr Adams how does it feel????? Did Munoz do any twitching…..??????de sha vu.


racket

If someone in my company leaked my confidential and personal information, particularly if it was in an effort to harpoon me, I would want to know.


I hope Munoz has not given up yet, I hope the leak is found, and dealt with appropriately.


MaryMalone

Me, too. That way there will be no doubt that Adams is pulling a “Nixon-Watergate” deal by trying to cover up his own illegal activities by trying to shift attention/blame to the whistleblower.


BTW, whistleblowers are protected in many scenarios.


Adams isn’t any parent. He has a dual relationship with the district. He is in charge of the school lunch program. IT WAS HIS JOB TO CATCH THIS KIND OF FRAUD. Yet, even when he was doing the fraud, Adams couldn’t perform his duties.


Since Adams can’t perform on his duties as district administrator, then he should be fired. If they insist on keeping such a failure on as district administrator, they must provide protection to whistleblowers or be seen as part of the conspiracy to silence the whistleblower’s complaints of illegal activities.


MaryMalone

ITA. The district is too poor to provide subsidized school lunches themselves, but they have money to prop up their barrister crony in San Francisco?


MaryMalone

Do you really think that was ever the objective? It appears that the objective was to silence whistleblowers–which is a crime, you know.


bobfromsanluis

Once again we have those in a school district administration doing something that us “normal” people wouldn’t give a second thought to, filling out a form to see if we qualify for a federal program for those whose income would be at, near or below the poverty line, all the while they as a couple are pulling $26,000 A MONTH, and instead of addressing the issue with sincerity and honesty, the focus is on how the information got out into the public realm. This whole episode kind of smacks of a “let them eat cake” attitude of not recognizing how out of touch those in the district administration truly are with the rest of society. Kind of makes me wonder what else those in these positions do that might not be legal or acceptable in polite society.


MaryMalone

ITA, Bob, especially the LTEC attitude and the potential for even more self-serving, greedy fraud they may be pulling that we just don’t know about…YET.