No such thing as a free lunch?

October 3, 2011

Chris Adams

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

Children of a San Luis Obispo County school district superintendent were signed up for a federal free lunch program, causing some to wonder if school officials increase federal funding by routinely inflating estimates of poverty-level student numbers on program applications.

Chris Adams, superintendent of Coast Unified School District, and his wife make more than $26,000 a month. Nevertheless, Julie Adams filled out an application for their children to receive free lunches even though the program is only open to families showing income of 130 percent or more below the poverty line.

Chris Adams said an explanation “was simple” but he declined to discuss the application, noting his board of trustees has launched an investigation into what he called “a federal crime,” asserting the form “has been stolen from the district.” He said the idea that his school-age children would be receiving free or reduced lunches was “offensive, ridiculous.”

“I would love to give you an explanation but the problem is, there is an investigation going on,” Adams said. “The school board instigated it.”

Nevertheless, County Superintendent of Schools Julian Crocker said he believes a “proxy” search for impoverished students is the reason Adams’ wife would fill out a lunch form.

“It is possible that the Adams’ filling that form out is just within that context,” Crocker said. “That’s probably the reason he would fill that out — as would other parents who clearly don’t qualify for the free and reduced lunches — and those forms would most likely just be put aside (rejected). But the district does receive a certain amount of money because of poverty. I don’t think it is subterfuge.”

Adams scoffed at Crocker’s comments: “Julian doesn’t even have a tenth of the information… so anything he said was just his opinion. The problem is that information is confidential.”

Crocker, too, wondered about the information’s source: “I am concerned about how this information came to you,” he said. “That this information would even get out because it’s supposed to be confidential.”

Adams said that in time the story of his children’s acceptance into the program would be explained.

“What I want is for the investigation to be completed, and once it is completed, you will get your information” Adams said. “But I’m not going to get in the middle of this nonsense. I’m really not losing any sleep over it. I’ll tell you everything there is to tell.

“I have nothing to hide. This is very irritating to me.”

Schools with the required number of children in the free lunch program receive state and federal Title I funds that can mean more than a $100,000 per school, according to the United States Department of Education website. The program provides supplemental funds to school districts with the highest student concentrations of poverty to help them meet school educational goals.

After CalCoastNews acquired a copy of Adam’s federal application, school officials launched a probe to determine how that document was obtained.

Roman Munoz, of the Sacramento law firm of Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann and Girard, was retained to investigate the source of the document’s “leak;” his scope has now been widened by the board to determine if there has been abuse of the free lunch program.

The free-lunch program is administered under Title 1, an element of the No Child Left Behind Act, Crocker said. Qualified families “sometimes do not apply for whatever reason, so the school districts over the years have made a real effort — and not just Coast Unified — to have all families regardless of income fill out that form.”

There is nothing new in this, Crocker asserted.

“My understanding from districts is that it is fairly standard practice to ask all parents to fill out that form, understanding that many parents don’t exactly qualify for free and reduced,” he said. “But over the years, what has happened is, parents who don’t want to be identified for whatever reason, may not want to fill out the forms.

“But what they don’t understand is that the district uses that information for other things, other than free and reduced lunches. So it’s just easier to just ask everyone to fill them out. That way, over the years districts have been able to get that information from parents, and it does present a way for districts to get additional federal money.”


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144 Comments

  1. slo_ride says:

    So now Chris Adams has moved the Board meeting to a new location, the Grammar School. Maybe he thinks the people of Cambria will not show up and this whole thing will go away for him.

    Perhaps they will dissolve the board and vote to change the name of the school to Chris Adams School of Ethics.

    What a joke.

    (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Who provides their legal services? The Seitz brothers? They play that game with the SSLOCSD meetings, too, when they don’t want to answer questions from customers and the media (Karen Velie).

      (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
  2. standup says:

    Adams is another no good crook in our government. Resign now!

    (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
  3. cheseburger says:

    ONE WORD SUMS IT UP ” GREED.GREED.GREED. AND MORE GREED. ON TOP OF ALL THAT GREED, there is no way this was a mistake,

    I have to fill out the same form and verify it, this is G<O work, followed by more GREED!

    (8) 16 Total Votes - 12 up - 4 down
  4. Stunned says:

    “Chris Adams, superintendent of Coast Unified School District, and his wife make more than $26,000 a month.” Someone please tell me this is a typo!

    If not, you’re an idiot for jeopardizing your career by stealing from our state.

    (19) 25 Total Votes - 22 up - 3 down
    • MosesTheChaste says:

      I shouldn’t begrudge someone hard fought earnings, but I think what we are faced with is the most soiled of lucre. What is clearly not on the application for ransom paid to the Adams bloodline are the vast sums paid to Larry. Certainly the trades deserve the fruits of so many calloused knuckles. But this has become an affront to electricians at large. So much so that none but Larry will even bid (unless it’s of the straw variety). It is not such petty matters of graft that I am interetsed in. If Cambria wishes to support all of Herr Adam’s family in some sort of right-wing welfare system, then so be it. I am only interested in the federal matter, only a few of which have even come to light. So, just to be fair the tally thus far is far greater than a meager $26k per month. Larry is also on the dole. How many hundreds of thousands of quid that may be…?

      (13) 15 Total Votes - 14 up - 1 down
      • MosesTheChaste says:

        My apologies, I understood this to more common knowledge than it appears to be. Larry is a family member who is awarded all of the electrical contracts. He is the defacto electron dom of the Cambria School System

        (9) 11 Total Votes - 10 up - 1 down
        • fawn_leibowitcz says:

          This posting is correct. The District does in fact pay Superintendent Chris Adam’s father to be the in house district electrician on most contracts. It is crazy to me that the Board has blessed this despite the inappropriateness. With the building moratorium and the recession there are many out-of-work electricians in Cambria, Cayucos and San Simeon. How can they possibly compete against a stacked deck Imagine it, “Here Dad see if you can beat this local taxpaying businessman’s most competitive bid wink wink.”

          And consider how his staff must feels about this. Do you think they can honestly say “Sorry Larry’s Lighting you do not get the work.” If Adams is half as vindictive to them as he is about chasing the whistleblower they must live in fear for their jobs.

          All this dust-up is because he is embarrassed at getting caught. So he was skimming for his kids or padding his districts numbers to get more federal tax dollars in the name of the kids. Now it is an embarrassing mess for our whole community. I truly hope his Board pays attention before they give him another raise of grant another extension of his contract.

          And one more thing – That Crocker opinion is a Crock!

          (15) 19 Total Votes - 17 up - 2 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          Well, as the Church Lady would say…”Isn’t THAT conVEEEEEEEEniant?!”

          (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
  5. MosesTheChaste says:

    Fine, maybe the form form was filled out with the most noble of intentions. Who among us passed mind reading class with flying colors? That doesn’t explain why his kids were active in the program for at least 2 years. Do you not recall the absence of a lunch box or the remittance of so much change that might have left you wondering at your offspring’s nourishment? You might think you’ve deleted a record or 2, but technology being what it is…

    What Herr Adams is doing is scrambling for a scapegoat. He needs one so badly he is overlooking the possibility that some forms left the guarded documentorium of the superintendent (Bundesintendant?) surreptitiously. He needs for that to be the case as someone needs to hang for this crime. I just love a good red-herring au poivre. This one I am currently enjoying with a newly arrived case of Tobin James.

    As to modus operandi, it’s the only one he knows, boorish school yard bullying. This missive is before you in part because of the injustice, but mostly because this particular audience demands good theatre. I can only wish he would rise to the grace and majesty of the most sublime of Chihuahua’s esteemed lucha libre.

    So now I plead with the legal priests of Sacramento to pull the curtain on this sham of a plot. Such a beautiful set deserves a script worthy of The Globe, not a local rendition of Cops. Though all of our aural sense should enjoy the lovely click of well oiled cuffs.

    (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Read Crocker’s opinion piece here. Take your blood-pressure medication first.

      (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
      • MosesTheChaste says:

        The pressure reading looks to be 129/77, and I just returned from a brisk stroll about the ranch with young Freddie. We did have occasion to speak with a retired federal official who has taken a keen interest in the topic at hand. Unfortunately his only remaining contacts are foreign service officals, but we shall see where all of that leads. In any event, thank you for the circulatory concern.

        In parting, and to borrow a phrase of Freddie’s, riddle me this… what government employee has Herr Adams taken to passing information through (when he would be well served to exercise more caution, given his nefarious proclivities), and simultaneously exposes himself to the most egregious of personal data breaches, be it unwittingly???
        Indeed, this does call for a brandy.

        (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
        • cheseburger says:

          DUH. as Homer would say! Creditable local law firm, going up against write your own pay raise judges, “okay Homer you ready to judge yet,” Said Bailiff Higgens, “Na, let’s ave another Duff first, burp” if we do this we can’t ever go back in there anyway.

          This was for drr, but I have to say to Moses great posts, great writing, and thoughts that maybe make one think. Where the heck did you come from , if it’s any of my business?

          (-3) 3 Total Votes - 0 up - 3 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          Glad your BP’s good. I think “tincture of Walking-Around the-Ranch” probably helps a lot!

          I had to laugh at your riddle because the obvious person would be this mysterious staff person who made a mistake while filling out ADAMS’ CHILDREN’s school-lunch-program form…perhaps even signing it for him.

          And here they’ve thrown this staff person under the bus, blaming him/her for Adams’ instructing a him/her for an error that supposedly occurred when he/she was filling out (on district-paid time?) a form for the ADAMS’ kids to receive free lunches under a federal program…which was ADAMS’ own personal responsibility, certainly not related to his job.

          Perhaps, for the staff form-filler-outer, this was a last straw…and he/she had enough of doing Adams’ personal chores.

          But here’s the deal: the USDA information packet found on their website (http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Translations/English/E-SchoolMealApp.pdf) is clearly intended to go to the parent/guardian and it is clearly intended the person who signs it must be a parent or (in the case of a guardian, such as in a foster-child situation) an adult member of the household.

          Unless the “staff” member who supposedly erroneously filled out the form is also either Mr. or Mrs. Adams (i.e., one of the parents), then the Adams committed fraud by having one of Mr. Adams’ staff fill out the form. It’s worse if the staff member signed the form.

          This whole deal gets curiouser and curiouser.

          —————————–

          FORM INDICATIONS THAT PARENT (or household adult, if it’s a situation like a foster child) MUST FILL OUT AND SIGN FORM:

          On page 1 of the packet from the USDA going to the schools (which contains the forms going to the parents for the National School Lunch Program), the instructions indicate the following must be sent to the parents:

          “Required information that must be provided to households:
          Letter to Households
          • Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application
          Notice to Households of Approval/Denial of Benefits1 (notification is required if household is denied)”

          Page 2 is the form cover letter the school/district is to send with the packet to the parents. The salutation is “Dear Parent/Guardian:”

          In instructions, page 4: “Part 5: Sign the form. The last four digits of a Social Security Number are not necessary.” (note: some categories of students’ parents are required to provide the last 4 numbers of their SS#).

          On page 7 is the signature line for the form. Above the line is the following information/warning: An adult household member must sign the application. If Part 4 is completed, the adult signing the form also must list the last four digits of his or
          her Social Security Number or mark the “I do not have a Social Security Number” box. (See Statement on the back of this page.)
          I certify (promise) that all information on this application is true and that all income is reported. I understand that the school will get Federal funds based on the information I give. I understand that school officials may verify (check) the information. I understand that if I purposely give false information, my children may lose meal benefits, and I may be prosecuted.

          Page 8 includes the following: “You must include the last four digits of the social security number of the adult household member who signs the application. The last four digits of the social security number is not required…”

          The rest of the pages of the packet the school/district is to send to the parent have, as salutations, “Dear Parent or Guardian.”

          (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
      • cmbrian says:

        Crockers opinion piece came home with every CUSD student on Friday. I guess the technology the district is implementing isn’t working for the students to read it online.

        Also, I think one of the articles may have been misinterprited. Mrs. Adams filled out the form and the person who was entering the info into the database incorrectly entered monthly as yearly income. There were a lot of mistakes that happened with this one form/family….it was mistakenly filled out, then it was mistakenly entered as yearly not monthly income, then it was mistakenly approved twice! And the kids were on the list and once this all came out and everyone realized the “mistake” they were taken off the list.

        MosesTheChaste, I love your writing!

        (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down

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