Coast Unified’s Adams fleeing federal probe?
August 29, 2013
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
Departing Coast Unified School District Superintendent Chris Adams is leaving his post under the cloud of a federal investigation into alleged civil rights violations.
Earlier this week, Adams acknowledged his five-year stint as head of Cambrian schools was ending and that he would be taking an assistant director position with a lobbying group, the Association of California School Administrators in Sacramento.
Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., told CalCoastNews an investigation, conducted by a special division of the department, is ongoing.
“We can confirm that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating allegations that the district retaliated against an individual for raising issues involving Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Bradshaw wrote in an email Tuesday. “That law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in all programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.”
Bradshaw also noted that federal privacy regulations prohibit identification of “people involved with our civil rights cases.”
There may be more than one complaint and multiple probes. But a specific investigation apparently centers around a formal complaint made to the district’s board of trustees by a parent, Lee Chamberlain, two years ago.
Chamberlain was objecting to what he considered the district’s failure to provide mandated assistance for English-language learners — 60 percent of the district’s student population.
Adams claimed the district was in compliance with state law; a subsequent investigation by state officials determined the district was not adhering, and Adams and the board were ordered to comply.
Adams and his wife, Julie, then allegedly retaliated against Chamberlain by publicly releasing and discussing confidential information regarding Chamberlain’s own special needs child.
During this same period, a local newspaper, The Cambrian, printed a faxed letter-to-the-editor from one “Pedro Garcia,” praising Adams’ skills, activities, and sensitivity to minority issues and requirements. Extensive efforts by local residents failed to locate anyone using that name with any connection to the region.
The fax’s origin was eventually traced to a telephone number assigned to the Adams while they lived in Redding, prior to his move to Coast Unified.
Adams repeatedly denied complicity in the faux fax.
The civil rights violation allegations center on suspected suppression of free speech and dissent through false pretenses by Adams.
Department of Education attorneys presently are discussing how Adams’ move will impact the investigation, if at all, according to one source, and “nothing will change” until Adams actually leaves the area.
The investigation is not the only shadow over Adams’ tenure.
In 2011, it was discovered that Adams’ two school-age children were included in a federal- and state-funded free-lunch program despite his combined family income at the time of more than $250,000. Adams denied it was an effort to “pad” program participant numbers to increase grant revenues, and blamed the whole thing on a bookkeeper’s error.
Adams also was criticized by some parents at board meetings for hiring his father for electrical work around the district, and for authorizing a district-funded series of costly programs designed and marketed by his wife as an independent consultant.
Three weeks ago, Adams and district trustees completed negotiations on a new contract calling for an annual salary of $168,000. It is not known if the contract was signed.
Adams did not respond Wednesday to CalCoastNews’ request for comment.