Where is the story?

October 7, 2011

Julian Crocker

OPINION By JULIAN CROCKER

Where is the story? The article that appeared in the Cal Coast News this week, entitled “No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”, gave the impression that either the Coast Unified School District was somehow “inflating” the numbers of students who qualify for federal subsidy for meals commonly referred to as “Free or Reduced Price Lunch” in order to receive more federal funding than it is eligible for; or that the Superintendent of Schools for the district is trying to qualify for subsidized meals for his two children who attend district schools.

If either of these inferences were true, then it might have been a story. However, neither is true and some innocent people have been caused unwarranted embarrassment and stress. An adequate review of the facts and some common sense would have shown that there is no story.

First, on the matter of receiving federal funding to assist low income students. Since the mid-60’s the federal government has provided additional funding for public and private schools that is targeted to meet the educational needs of students from low-income families. The purpose of the money is to assist school districts to enhance the education for these students as one means of mitigating the debilitating effects of poverty on their lives and future. School districts apply for these funds based on the number of students whose gross family income for 2011-2012 is $41,348 or lower for a family of four. Obviously, it is in our students’ best interests if all students who qualify are reported and funded. So, yes, a district should try to maximize the federal funding for which it qualifies.

The use of the federal Free and Reduced Price Eligibility information is the most common method of identifying students who qualify for additional educational funding. All school districts, as well as private schools, in our county use this method and have been doing so for a number of years. This practice is subject to the annual independent audit reviews for both the school food service program and the school district budget as well as federal compliance reviews. The practice has never been questioned since it conforms to federal guidelines.

In order to identify all qualified students, most districts encourage all families to complete the form, not just those who may qualify. This process is more efficient and also lessens the obvious risk of embarrassing students by having only a selected group complete the form. The district reviews the forms to determine how many children qualify based on the income criteria and then notifies the parents. That is exactly the process used by the Coast Unified School District and all local school districts for the sole purpose of insuring that as many students who are entitled to additional funding and services can receive them. Last year, the district received $89,000 in federal funds based on this process. So what is the story…“District Follows Authorized Practice”?

Second, the implication in the story is that the Superintendent was attempting to qualify for Free and Reduced Price Lunch for his own children. Based on the district’s request of all parents, the Superintendent submitted the form as requested. The family clearly did not qualify and their form was discarded just as it, and many others, have been each year. Over half of the students in the district do qualify.

This implication also fails the common sense test. Why would the Superintendent of Schools in a small tightly knit school district where his salary is public knowledge think his children could qualify for a “free lunch”? Answer: he didn’t. So, what is the story? “Superintendent Follows the Rules”?

Unfortunately, a family, including young children, has been needlessly subjected to public humiliation and invasion of privacy (the forms include social security numbers) due to an apparent desire to create a flashy story where none existed. I would give the writer high marks for a catchy headline, but an F for homework and accuracy.

Julian Crocker is the San Luis Obispo County Superintendent of Schools.


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CambriaKing

My kid tells me that all the students at Coast Union recieved a copy of Dr. Crocker’s explaination in their first period class this morning.

Yep, you heard me right…the Board/Super/Principal thought it was a good idea to spend some more $ to let everyone know about the CCN article. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Something is really begining to stink up here. Does the Grand Jury have a phone number I can call?


pasowino

Hmmm, I seem to remember talking about “current events” in my classes at high school. Especially current events that involved the school.


CambriaKing

Well, my kid has PE first period, and they don’t do current events there. It is simply a way for the administation to push their case, seems inappropriate to me. Will the adminstation pass out current events information on the school board election? Maybe they could give us their opinion on abortion too.

Adams has a real problem with appropriatness. Last year after a school board debate, Adams held a meeting to explain his why he disagreed with his opposition. It was so wrong, but he tried to cover it with, “oh, I am going to hold these meetings all the time to give the community access to me.” Needless to say that didn’t happen. He got his cronies elected and we never saw him again.

Did Crocker endorse the dispension of the propaganda? Who makes that decision? Did the principal(Karl Dearie) do it as a favor to Adams? They seem a little chummy for me. If you protect me, then I will protect you.


MaryMalone

Clearly, the “explanation” distributed was a PR effort to benefit Adams.


How much did it cost? That should be taken from his salary, as should the money for the two years his kids were on the school lunch program list at school. They SAY his kids didn’t get a free ride on a program for the disadvantaged, but I really think that if the person recording who got free lunches and who didn’t saw Adams’ kids coming through the line, they would likely NOT record them as fraudulently free lunches. That person may need their job in the future.


MaryMalone

I didn’t know kiester-saving was part of the SLOCo schools’ budget.


Lilylu

I have never filled out the free/reduced price lunch form. Since my husband lost his job 2 years ago, we may even qualify now, but like pasoparent5 we instead pack a low cost lunch for our kids. What is wrong with teaching our kids that we must adapt to the real situations in our life. WE DO NOT HAVE TO RELY ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT to feed our kids! I can get a loaf of bread for $1.25 at Target or Walmart, 16 oz. peanut butter for $1.00 from Grocery Discount Center, grapes for 77 cents per lb. this week at Vons and water in a thermos. Should my kids be embarrassed that they can’t afford to get school lunch pizza on Friday’s? That we drive a 9 year old car that’s paid for? No! They should be and are proud that we are self sufficient, and have enough to share what we have with others. This whole attitude of “getting additional federal funds” that Mr. Crocker touts is what has gotten this country in trillion of dollars in debt. Mr Crocker, the federal bank is empty! Stop trying to get more from the empty well!


Typoqueen

A lot of kids don’t’ have good parents like you. I have seen kids who’s only meal is the meal they get at school. You can’t force a someone to be a good parent, is that the kids fault? Do you expect a 10 year old to go to the store and buy peanut butter, bread etc.?


easymoney

Homerun lilylu…

Those of us who already supply our kids with a inexpensive healthy meal to go in the morning seemed to get the finger from the school board. They want the sign ups and they want the numbers high to reflect dependence on the government…


LensCleaner

Not sure what to think of the initial story or Crocker’s opinion piece.


One thing though, is this paragraph from Crocker’s opinion ….


“In order to identify all qualified students, most districts encourage all families to complete the form, not just those who may qualify. This process is more efficient and also lessens the obvious risk of embarrassing students by having only a selected group complete the form.”


This doesn’t make any sense. Where the link between filling out the form and embarrasing the students. Arent the forms simply turned over to the admin people? How can preparation and submission of more forms lead to greater efficiency?


I was on board with Crocker’s mindset until I saw this and it raised a flag.


pasowino

I think his logic about embarrassing the kids is like having everyone hold up their hand in class who’s parents make less than $43,000 per year. That could be embarrassing, so I think if everyone “raised their hand” by turning in the form, only the admin staff would know who qualifies and who doesn’t.


easymoney

You need to double that figure and then ask for a raising of hands by school admin satff…


racket

I think Dr. Crocker’s explanations are both reasonable and honest.


brettmx

You’re being sarcastic right?. Dr. Crocker’s explanations don’t actually make a lot sense to me. I think he is saying we have every parent fill out the forms and then we toss those that don’t qualify. Why would you do that?. Because you don’t want to embarass other families. Huh?. And well everyone else does it too. Dr. Crocker better hope that no one from the Attorney General’s office shows up and starts auditing the originals. Gawd forbid that there has been any alteration of the documents. I’m waiting for some families to come forward and say, ” I couldn’t figure out why are kids qualified, I know we make more than the threshold.”


This “episode” is an example of pretty poor internal management decision making.


JackR

“I think he is saying we have every parent fill out the forms and then we toss those that don’t qualify. Why would you do that?”


They probably found that unless you do this, some parents wouldn’t fill out ANY of the forms in the package. If all parent’s were capable of following instructions, maybe they wouldn’t have to do this. Unfortunately, that’s the reality that schools have to deal with.


MaryMalone

You MUST be a district employee. I can’t believe anyone else would have such a derisive attitude towards parents of kids attending a public school.


What I am getting from the pro-fraud-Adams-Crocker posts is this oppressive feeling of entitlement…to do whatever they want, whatever way they want to do it, the parents are stupid and can’t fill out a form, and the people being paid $26,000/month to screw over the parents and their kids with the school lunch program AND distribute personal information from the families to whomever they want–including “consultants” with the district.


AND no one had better dare ask questions.


Also, pity the poor staff member that gets stuck doing the personal family form-filling for Adams and his consulting bride because the staff member will be the one Adams throws under the bus when it comes time to assign blame for committing fraud on the federal government.


JackR

No, just someone that’s sent 4 kids through public schools and spent a fair amount of the time helping out with school related stuff. I’ve wasted my time trying to track down parents to turn in one thing or another to know there is a percentage of parents that either don’t care or it’s definitely not a priority for them.


I wasn’t voicing my opinion on the Adamses situation so relax.


MaryMalone

I think its also an example of pretty poor external oversight. One gets the impression that Coastal Unified and SLOCo Schools make up these policies on the fly, without really even reading the dammed forms.


They seem to rely on the “everybody else is doing it” (even if they aren’t), and I don’t think most of us would accept that excuse from our own first-graders, let alone the administrators of the school districts where our kids go to school.


MaryMalone

I think Crocker’s explanations are a crock. How gullible are you?


racket

I’m pretty gullible. That notwithstanding, I think Crocker’s explanation openly addresses the issues at hand.


What I am reading between the lines in these comments is that there is a witch hunt against Adams. I do not know, nor particularly care, why. But the free lunch application seems to be the Trojan Horse to open the gates to whatever other dirty laundry someone has to air.


racket

Wow. Four metaphors in one paragraph.


If you appreciate writing like that, thank a high school English teacher. :-)


Typoqueen

Hey, I actually liked the over use of the metaphors.


korie

Mr Crocker – Maybe the bigger story is that Coast Union is able to spend $13,775 per student compared to Paso Robles’ $7843 and Templeton $6903 yet they still feel deserving of an additional $89000 in federal funding. This on top of a school bond which allowed them to build a brand new school and provide superior facilities for their students. Do you feel this is equitable and, if not, what are you doing to try and assist these struggling districts in maintaining programs, supplies, and facility maintenance? Have you done anything to educate the system toward revision of some of these formulas which clearly do not take all factors into consideration when spending our tax dollars?


MaryMalone

Korie–I like your style. Good questions. Let’s see if you get a better answer than the district’s standard “my-dog-ate-my-homework,” “everybody-else-is-doing-it,” or “it’s-the-fault-of-the-staff-I-made-fill-out-and-sign-my-personal-family’s-fradulent-submission-for-free-lunches-for-my-kids” fare.


MaryMalone

Mr. Crocker, do you agree with Mr. Adams’ statement in the original CCN post about the school lunch program?


Did you have more than “one-tenth of the information” when you wrote your opinion article?


And why would SLOCo have a Superintendent of Schools who would go around giving quotes to reporters based on only one-tenth of the information?


Or is, as has been indicated by some of Adams most fierce supporters posting here, Adams just throwing you under the bus, just like he is trying to throw his district staff under the bus by blaming them for the submission of a form that is to be filled out by a parent and signed by a parent?


“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.”


Cindy

Excellent post Mary. Perhaps Crocker can explain how parents who never filled out the form ended up on the program?


MaryMalone

Cindy, I’d really like an answer to that question, too.


Unfortunately, I think we’ll have to file with the California State Auditor who, fortunately, will have expanded powers after 1/1/2012.


asthecrowphlies

Julian , you are not seeing the forest through the trees .


I wrote in the other post ” when you are pulled over for a speeding ticket and you tell the officer everyone else was speeding too the officer will say ” but you are the one I catch ” . How many times have you heard ” if your friends jump off a cliff does that mean you should ” . ”


You and Adams are paid wheel barrels full of money from people that many can not afford the wheel barrel . These numbers appear invisible to the audit because the paper work is ” padded ” . You and Adams are paid all this money because you are suppose to know the who , what , where , and when of running things PROPERLY . If you can’t be the straight shooter that steps up to own it and fix it , then step down so someone else can . As for Adams , my father who was a fairly religious man use to tell me to be careful when dealing with religious people because when they cheat you they think god is on their side .


JustSoYouKnow

This situation is not a cover-up or a scam to try to get more money from the government. It is a witch-hunt against the superintendent. In the future, instead of trying to create a rally based in anger and misguided information, the person who has issue with the superintendent should set up a meeting to openly discuss their questions. This way, folks can be informed and act respectfully towards each other, not create an environment of hate and mistrust.

Whoever started this would have had better results in creating change if they had met with Mr. Adams and asked for his explanation in the first place instead of creating headline news with their assumptions.

This situation is terrible for the moral in a fine district filled with devoted teachers and staff who come to work each day dedicated to teaching our children.

If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. A system is in place to be heard. Use the system to be the change you want to see.

Shame on all of you who think Dr. Crocker and Mr. Adams are out to scam and cheat to get ahead.


MaryMalone

The problem is Adams and Crocker have been changing their stories and throwing staff under the bus so much that it’s getting to the place where we know, certainly, any legal firm paid by the district [ROLLS EYES AND STUPIDITY OF EXPECTING PAID LEGAL FIRM WILL DO ANYTHING BUT EXONERATE THE DISTRICT] will not be able to give an independent finding on what the heck has been going on at the district…that we might as well move on to the State Auditor, right after the first of the year, when the State Auditor will have expanded powers under which they can do a really, in-depth investigation on cases like this.


The idiocy of paying Adams $26,000/month to create a clusterbuck like this is behind belief.


panflash

Richard Milhous Crocker covering for G, Gordon Adams. Just how stupid do these people think we are anyhow? “Just keep denying and covering, and the story will eventually go away.” Uh, uh, pal- we’re on to you- it’s over- it’s just a matter of time now.