Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

SAUSD poor performing schools

“Orange County’s largest school district has been ordered to repay $2.7 million that it illegally debited from its student meal program over the past five years, according to a sweeping state audit released Wednesday that examines misuse of money intended to feed impoverished children,” according to the O.C. Register.

That’s right.  The Santa Ana Unified School District has some explaining to do, including:

  • In one instance, the Santa Ana Unified School District billed a $301,000 kitchen roof repair to its student meal program, even after being informed by state officials twice – in writing and in person – that student meal funds could not legally be used to fix the central kitchen’s roof.
  • Santa Ana Unified also ordered its central kitchen to routinely provide free meals and snacks to high-level district officials, the report noted, including at twice-monthly school board meetings.
  • In the report, Santa Ana Unified defended its billing decisions, citing an “absence of guidance” from the state on accounting methods that came down to a matter of “interpretation.” Santa Ana Unified has formally contested repaying at least $2.4 million, according to the report.
  • The report said Santa Ana Unified’s cafeteria fund at one point amassed a $16 million surplus that was growing by more than $2 million a year.
  • A 2010 report by Santa Ana Unified’s auditor found that 21 percent of the positions in the district’s food services department were “routinely vacant,” the Senate report noted. County health inspectors, meanwhile, cited the district 22 times in a four-year period for cockroaches and rodents at 15 campuses and the central kitchen.  “This happens to anyone in the restaurant business, and we’re bigger than a restaurant,” Palacio said. “We serve about 100,000 meals every day at 60 sites.”
  • Former Santa Ana Unified food services director Jan Monforte, who reported the district’s conduct to state authorities, testified that district officials at the time viewed her department as a “cash cow” whose funds they routinely tried to siphon. Monforte, a 30-year veteran of the school food-services industry, was fired in 2011 after one year on the job.
  • In the Senate report, Santa Ana Unified was cited for inaccurately billing $2.4 million in cafeteria-related salaries over a three-year period. The district violated federal laws by not requiring workers such as activity supervisors and custodians to log the hours they worked on cafeteria-related duties. Instead, the district estimated the hours of “only a selected number” of workers and extrapolated, the report noted.
John Palacio is pulling for Valerie Amezcua, but not Myriam Tinajero
SAUSD Trustee John Palacio

Santa Ana Unified trustee John Palacio said the district already had adjusted its accounting practices based on some of the state’s findings, but he emphasized that billing requirements were complex and that disagreements over interpreting them were commonplace and to be expected.  Palacio also said that, contrary to what the Senate report indicated, meals provided to district trustees and administrators never were absorbed by the district’s cafeteria fund.

Councilman Roman Reyna at meeting

Excuse me but why were the SAUSD Trustees and administrators being fed in the first place?  Are you kidding me?  Unbelievable!

We previously reported about the SAUSD’s lengthy record of food violations here.  You may click here to look up your kid’s school’s health violation record.

Here’s a question to ponder – what did current Santa Ana Council Member Roman Reyna know about all this when he was an SAUSD Trustee over the past four years?

Click here to read the State Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes’s report, titled “Food Fight: Small Team of State Examiners No Match for Schools that Divert Student Meal Funds.”

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

4 thoughts on “SAUSD Trustees and administrators busted by State Senate audit”
  1. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Nick gerda or Adam Elmark to ask Councilmember Renya about this. They have become the “Pravda” of the Santa Ana spring.

    Maybe The OC Weekly will ask, the seem to be the last of the mainstream media willing to question wrongdoing.

  2. This is the right penalty, but still could be some more, because playing with students health is not good, they must be punished , and this king of audits must be done regularly, so that this kind of issues must be under control.

  3. all the following is allegedly…

    My question to John Palacio? How about adjusting the Child Nutrition Top Management !!! Especially Mark Chavez, A YES MAN hired by Deputy Superintendent for Business Services Michael Bishop ( the state audit findings fell under his time frame sited above violation July 2010 to Dec 2011)plus Mark Chavez has no true experience to properly run a large account like SAUSD. Just look at his resume and how he assumed the Director’s position without interviewing or posting the job. Hey Boardmembers, why let this violation happen..

    Just like Oct 22,2012 an article was posted here regarding SAUSD food safety scandal and the huge amount of food waste. Again wasting tax doolars and CNS funds. Allegedly Mark Chavez and dept not following state and federal guidelines and procedures and large amounts of unuse spoiled food from the warehouse thrown into the trash with pictures bein taken. Thelma Mendez was fed the line that was in d dicard log..Discard log are not for LARGE amount of food waste..
    Again Mark Chavez who makes six figures and all he has done since his hire dated approx. sept 2011 is hired outside consultants to perform most of his duties..talking about another example of thousands of tax dollars and CNS funds wasted..with board approval mostly likely..or was that hidden from them also????

    Allegedly Mark Chavez had knowledge of the Unpaid Student Meals Receivable to be into the thousands again and it was not a big deal. Who is he to give free meals to students? whaT ABOUT MY KID, maybe i should not paid also..His famous line was i inherited this …well its was well over a year (hire dated) since the food waste and salmonella scandal was exposed…
    Where was John Palacio and Thelma Mendez? What about Rob Richardson (by the way he was informed by employees and they asked for help) Did he help or hide it? and The board members Audrey Noji, Jose Hernandez and Roman Reyna ,,what did they know or turned a blind eye..

    Its a lame excuse that there was an absence of guidance and/or interprtation for the funds violation..its common knowledge for Directors and top management from Nutrition Dept. to know the state policies and procedures..That why they get paid the big bucks..

    John Palacio there’s No excuses for a dirty kitchen. plus SAUSD mostly serve pre package food to the students…the kitchen is not cooking from scratch maybe only the central employee free lunch meal is cook.
    These are our kids health that your talking about.

    Mark Chavez, is hiring only top heavy management so what about the actual workers who feed the students..emplopees have
    complained to him about help…it was also a state finding violation.

    Allegedly Reyna did not want to rattle anything for his political career instead of standing up for the students…Only he knows???

    all the above is ALLEGEDLY….i wanted to comment on the oc but fear of retaliation..Just like former Director and other top management were dismiss.

  4. Really, SAUSD is feeding the top administrators. Now I know why Mr. Hammond the Asst. Superintendent is soooooooo obese!!!

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