NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Last month we reported on the illegal pizza sales “fundraising” operations at Isaac E. Young Middle School. In our story, we noted that the District had failed to turn over a single record pertaining to “pizza sales” pursuant to our Freedom of Information Request dated April 13, 2015. After the story ran, Deborah Ferrera, recently retired but for many years the Treasurer of Isaac E. Young Middle School, and Linda Frasca, the school security guard who runs the pizza sales operation, protested the story, claiming that our story was inaccurate because there were records pertaining to pizza sales. Of course, our story was entirely accurate.
We contacted the school clerk, made her aware of these claims and pointed out that we had requested all records from September 1, 2012 to what was then present day (April 2015) so if there were indeed records they were improperly withheld from our Freedom of Information Request. I asked the Clerk to check again.
The Treasurer at Isaac E. Young MS responded with over 200 pages of records but covering only the period from October 20, 2015 to May 30, 2017. There was one record, apparently included by accident, which pertained to the period of our original FOIL request from September 2012 to April 2015. There were no records from the two months immediately prior to our request dated July 19, 2017.
Below are the relevant exchanges involving our Freedom of Information Requests regarding Pizza Sales Fundraisers at Isaac E. Young Middle School.
Original Request to School Clerk: April 13, 2015
I would like to obtain records related to fundraising at Isaac E. Young Middle School over the past three years, going back to September 1, 2012. It is my understanding that the school offers items for sale such as pizza, ice cream and candy; that this is done under the guise of “fundraising”. I would like to obtain all records related to the purchase of the items sold at these fundraisers (the cost side) such as invoices from pizza restaurants, grocery store receipts and so on. I would also like to obtain all the records related to the sale of these items at these fundraisers (the revenue side) including sales receipts, cash receipts, daily tally sheets and so on I would also like to obtain all records related to payments made to district employees related to the fundraising including hourly time sheets, paychecks that indicate a person was paid for their role in fundraising and any stipends paid to employees related to fundraising. In addition I would like to obtain all records of reimbursements paid to district employees or anyone else that relate to fundraising. I would like to obtain all records of the school and the district maintained to keep track of all of the funds going in and out both at the school treasurer level and the central office/business office level. I would like to obtain a copy of the district’s policy regarding the sale of “junk food” including pizza, ice cream, candy, soda, etc. and any waivers, letters, memos or other communications in which the school sought and/or the district approved the sale of items that have been sold at Isaac over the past three years which are or may be in violation of the district’s policy on food sold at schools.
Initial Reply by School Clerk: April 22, 2015
Attached are copies of our Board Policies #1330, 3740, 5330 and 5585, and Superintendent's Regulation #585 pertaining to your request. I certify that the attached copies are true copies of the original documents. Also attached is a copy of "Extraclassroom Activity Funds, Statement of Cash Receipts, Cash Disbursements and Cash Balances, for Year Ended June 30, 2014, June 30, 2013, and June 30, 2012", for Isaac E. Young Middle School. I certify that to the best of my knowledge the attached copies are true copies of the original documents, as received from the School District Treasurer.
- 585 Student Wellness
- 1330 Fund Raising by Community Groups
- 3740 Selling of Competitive Foods
- 5330 Fund-Raising Projects by Students
- 5585 Student Wellness
Follow Up After Story Ran: July 19, 2017
2 years ago I made a FOIL for such records and did not get back any records that documented the paper trail on cash generated by the sale of pizza. It is the basis for part of my article yesterday. Today I learned that there is a claim emanating from Isaac that there are such records. If that is the case I should have been provided those records in 2015. I would ask that you check and see if there are additional records. If there are I would be interested to know why they were withheld at that time.
School Clerk Reply to Follow Up After Story Ran: July 25, 2017
As per your Freedom of Information Law request dated 7/19/2017, attached are copies of the records you requested pertaining to fundraising at Isaac E. Young Middle School, particularly to the sale of pizza. The attached spreadsheets did not exist when you made your previous Freedom of Information Law request dated 4/13/2015. The dates listed on the attached spreadsheets are after that date.
Our Same Day Reply to School Clerk Reply to Follow Up After Story Ran dated July 25, 2017
This is absolutely absurd. I see nothing here that could not have been manufactured in the past week. How convenient that there are NO records from when I made my FOIL request but now there ARE now "spreadsheets" but only from AFTER my request. And these spreadsheets are not time stamped as received by anyone? As in the business office at City Hall received them over the course of the past two years? That said, I asked for ALL records. I see check numbers. So where are the checks used to pay for the pizza? I want every single check. Checks were written for what? I want receipts from the pizza restaurant? Or petty cash slips? Or expense reimbursement forms? Or Cash sales receipts? And does none of this exist prior to my 2015 FOIL? I want all of this back to 2012. If they were paying by check then there should be checks in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 as well. If this is the baloney the District wants to pass off as a response to my FOIL requests covering 2012 to 2017 so be it but please confirm that these "spreadsheets" are the sole records.
School Clerk Reply to Follow Up After Story Ran: August 15, 2017
In reference to your Freedom of Information Law request dated 7/19/2017, and further to our e-mail exchange regarding this request, attached are copies of the records you requested pertaining to fundraising at Isaac E. Young Middle School, particularly pizza sales, as follows:
• 2016-2017 Spreadsheet, with copies of back-up receipts/deposits (total of 116 pages)
• 2015-2016 Spreadsheet, with copies of back-up receipts/deposits (total of 54 pages)
• 2015-2016 Spreadsheet of "Cash Payment Pizza Receipts" (total of 27 pages)
1. Backup receipt of the following transaction (transfer) is not provided herewith because such receipt could not be located: 6/21/2017 Transfer to Account C-20 $1,100.00
2. Student names were redacted on 5 pages because if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
3. There are no other records pertaining to pizza sales at Isaac E. Young Middle School prior to the date of 10/22/2015.
Our Same Day Reply to School Clerk Reply dated August 15, 2017:
Thank you for staying on top of this. I am sure you are dismayed by this reply from Isaac as I am.
What this appears to show at first glance is that what I reported, that there were NO RECORDS PROVIDED for the period of my original request in 2015 (from 2012 to 2015) was entirely accurate. I know a data dump when I see one and this response contains many records that appear to have nothing to do with my request and the records I did get are a mess.
These records (and your email) state there are no records prior to 10/22/15. A receipt for pizza from 10/20/15 is attached. It took me about 10 seconds to locate this “error” in a quick skim through of these documents. I am sure there will be more. I need to manually key this data into a spreadsheet to find out. I will get back to you when I get to that point.
I am also going to want the BACK of checks to show they were cleared AND the bank statements showing the same. Again, I will get back to you with a more complete response when I have had time to sort out the mess contained in the PDF files.
As you have cc’d Dr. Osborne, let me say that I sure hope SOMEONE over the is considering that given the response to my records request so far, the financial record keeping at Isaac is a disaster area. It would seem to me that rather than have people who are CLEARLY unqualified to serve as “Treasurer” for a school the District ought to hire an outside firm to maintain these records and that originals be kept at City Hall not the school. That these people are poor at their job is the charitable interpretation. The less charitable would be that this is all deliberate because money is being misappropriated. I am inclined to the latter but will withhold judgment until I have parsed this data.
In order to sort out the virtual “shoebox” full of records thrown at us by the building leadership at Isaac E. Young Middle School (unfortunately for them, such "shoebox sorting" is a specialty of ours), we had to first convert the PDF files tables into spreadsheets, clean up OCR errors, then rationalize the three different tables so the columns matched up. This was about 8 hours of work over two days. There were many “errors”, items recorded on spreadsheets for which there was no corresponding receipts, receipts that were not entered into the spreadsheets and a host of unrelated records. We have sent a follow up request for all bank records for the checks and deposit slips indicated in the provided records.
What we were left with was a total of 116 transactions: 52 invoices for supposed “cash payments” (there are no records showing these invoices were actually paid), 19 checks to Pronto Pizza (1 voided out), and 32 cash deposit slips attributed to “Pizza”, Pizza Sales, “Fundraisers” or “Linda Frasca”. There are receipts for pizza sales from (and only from) Pronto Pizza including one that appears to be dated February 25, 2015 which is from during the period of our original FOIL request.
The records show the cost of a regular large pie to be $10.00. The cost of a Sicilian pie is $13.99 or $14.99 (the price went up at one point) and there are some charges for single slices of pepperoni pizza. There are no tips included. On a few of the items, a charge ending in 99 cents is rounded to the dollar for no apparent reason. Three of the payments include New York State sales tax totaling $28.60 which a school district is not required to pay. The rest is a complete mess.
Credits (i.e. money spent) include: pizza receipts that are not listed in any of the spreadsheets (7); transactions in the spreadsheets but for which there is no receipt (3) a check # listed but no copy front or back of that check used to pay a Pronto Pizza bill (25) and then line items like “Linda Frasca -pizza CK# 1284” (1); “Linda Frasca -pizza CK#1289” (1); “VOID Check #1472” (1) “fund raiser” (3); “paid cash”, with Pronto Pizza receipt (38); “paid cash” with Pronto Pizza receipt but a discrepancy $104.99 v $113.70 (1) cash with Pronto Pizza receipt where spreadsheet says “7 reg 2 pep” but receipt says 10 reg (1).
Debits (i.e. deposits) include line items like: Linda Frasca Pizza Sales (7); Linda Frasca Pizza (2); Linda Frasca but no stated purpose (8); Linda Frasca fundraising (1); Linda Frasca - fundraiser (1); Linda Frasca - FOR PIZZA (2); Deposit for Pizza Sales, Linda Frasca (9); Deposit for Pizza Sales (1); stated purpose is “fund raiser” (3).
There are many anomalies in the records. Between October 20th, 2015 and November 20th, 2015 there are payments to Pronto Pizza for $1,206.62 and then a deposit of just $200 on November 23rd, 2015. Presumeably the pizza was sold. So where is the money from those sales? From November 23rd, 2015 to May 4th, 2016 there are payments to Pronto Pizza for $3,624.90 and a deposit of just $950.00. Same question, where are the proceeds from those sales? Over the entire period, between October 20th, 2015 and May 30, 2017, there are payments to Pronto Pizza totaling $13,001.70 with deposits over the same period of $8,041.00 or a direct loss of $4,960.70.
Talk of the Sound requested records for pizza sales at Isaac E. Young Middle School from September 1, 2012 to the present, a 58 month period, what we got back was a set of incomplete and poorly maintained records purporting to cover a 20 month period between October 20th, 2015 and May 30, 2017 and those records we did get do not account for all of the money even if we take the records at face value (which we do not ).
According to the District’s own records, the District has been paying Linda Frasca, a security guard, over $1,600 a year to run a fundraising operation on top of which she is being paid about $20 an hour to work as a security guard (about $2,000 a year) during the same hours she is selling pizzas as a supposed “fundraiser”. And for all this, her fundraising operation loses about $3,000 a year.
But this is only looking at the losses based on the direct cost. There is also the matter of what the pizza is worth when sold at the school.
Frascsa charges $2.00 a slice. The invoices indicated she was primarily purchasing large pizzas from Pronto Pizza which are cut into 8 slices and Sicilian pizza which can be cut into 6 or 8 slices. We believe they were cut into 8 slices. Then there are the orders of pepperoni slices which appear to be special orders for someone; those orders total $202.50 over 20 months but we are going to set those aside for now. By taking each invoice and running the costs per pizza ($10 for a regular pizza and either $13.99 or $14.99 for Sicilian pizza depending on the date) then calculating the number of slices at $2.00 each we can calculate what the revenue of pizza sales should have been based on the records recently provided.
In the 20 month period between October 20th, 2015 and May 30, 2017 total revenue from slices of regular and Sicilian pizza was $14,080. So, another way to look at the finances of Frasca’s pizza sales operation is that the “opportunity cost”, the profit she could have made (and in our view did make) but did not record was $6,039 or about $300 a month.
Projecting those numbers over the entire 58 month period covered by our FOIL request, Frasca would have turned a profit of $17,513.10. She was also paid a stipend of $1,604 as Coordinator of Fund Raising for the 2014-15 school year so adding in another $7,000 in stipends as a “fundraiser” over those 58 months totals about $25,000 all while being paid as a full-time security guard with a salary, benefits and pension (and spending other parts of her day operating a catalog sales business). The I.R.S. might have some interest in this undeclared income.
The total revenue from September 1, 2012 to the present, a 58 month period would be about $41,000 of which less than one-third ($13,001.70) is accounted for by the District’s records. Those records are required by New York State law to be retained for six years. Isaac E. Young Middle School claims they have no records prior to October 2015 which is a violation of New York State law. There appears to be at least one record from February 2015 which was withheld (accidentally?) which is also a violation of New York State law.
While on the subject of violations of state law, the records that the District has produced, showing they purchased $13,001.70 worth of pizza to sell as a fundraiser for Isaac E. Young Middle School which serves to prove that the District has been violating New York State and Federal law for many years.
The sale of pizza and other unhealthy foods during school hours (and 30 minutes after the end of the school day) has been banned under New York State and Federal law since 2010 (and since 1998 under the District’s own wellness policy).
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 directed the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students in school during the school day, including foods sold through school fundraisers. Federal law allowed states to grant fundraising exemptions to each school. For example, Georgia and Tennessee each granted 30 a year per school. Idaho granted 10. But New York does not allow any. In accordance with Section 210.11(b)(4), the New York State Education Department (SED) is electing to establish a policy that no fundraising exemptions may be granted and is prohibiting any food related fundraisers that do not meet the nutritional standards from being held during the school day.
On September 16, 2014, Paula Tyner-Doyle, Coordinator of the New York State Education Department’s Office for Prekindergarten through Grade 12 Education Child Nutrition Program Administration. sent a letter on the subject of Smart Snacks Standards and Fundraisers to all of New York State’s District Superintendents, Superintendents of Public Schools, Chief Administrators of Nonpublic Schools Participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, Chancellor of New York City Public Schools, Executive Directors of Residential Child Care Institutions Food Service Directors/Managers and School Board Members.
In accordance with Section 210.11(b)(4), the New York State Education Department (SED) is electing to establish a policy that no fundraising exemptions may be granted and is prohibiting any food related fundraisers that do not meet the nutritional standards from being held during the school day.
City School District of New Rochelle has its own policies,
Selling of Competitive Foods Number 3740: Organizations, students, faculty members, or other persons are not permitted to sell food or beverages of any type during the school day. This shall include but, not be limited to, vended sales, candy sales, ice cream sales. The New Rochelle School Lunch Program reserves all rights regarding food and beverage sales. The School Food Service Director, alone will decide the best way suited to offer food for sale. This will include but not be limited to, over the counter, remote stations, vending, and catered sales.
City School District of New Rochelle does not have a School Food Service Director which was pointed out to the School Clerk in our email dated July 23, 2017. We received the following reply:
In reference to your e-mail below dated 7/23/2017, our School District has a contract with Whitsons School Nutrition Corporation, 1800 Motor Parkway, Islandia, New York 11749, to provide contractual services in the administration of the School District's food service program for the period of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. We do not appoint a School Food Service Director. That position is provided by Whitsons...Erie 1 BOCES is currently reviewing all of our Board of Education Policies for revision, which includes the two policies you referenced - No. 3740 and 2485, adopted in 1988.
For those paying attention, federal law bans vending machine sales of candy, salty snacks and soda (except diet soda at high schools) but New York State is even more restrictive than federal law, banning all soda sales of any kind at any public school. District policy is still more restrictive, banning all vending machines sales regardless of what is in the vending machines.
Starting in school year 2014-15, all foods sold at school during the school day are required to meet nutrition standards. The Smart Snacks in School regulation applies to foods sold a la carte, in the school store, vending machines, and any other venues where food is sold to students. These laws and district policies have been widely ignored for many years in New Rochelle.
Asked about this in 2015, then-Medical District for City School District of New Rochelle Dr. Adreinne Weiss-Harrison was vague about whether pizza sales as fundraisers was illegal at public schools in New York State. The law is not vague at all. The law is quite clear on this point as was confirmed by a spokesperson for the New York State Education Department:
The sale of sweetened soda and all foods that do not meet the Smart Snacks guidelines are prohibited from the beginning of the school day (midnight the night before) until 30 minutes after the end of the actual school day (dismissal). There are restrictions on foods available for fundraising held during the school day, and they include prohibitions on items that do not meet the Smart Snacks guidelines. NYS has not provided any formal exceptions/exemptions or process for exceptions/exemptions and instead has defaulted to the federal regulation. At the same time, schools ARE allowed to sell fundraising items like whole pizzas and tubs of cookie dough and whole fruit pies, etc., that are not meant for consumption on school grounds – that students pay for and then take home for consumption.
In short, the sale of pizzas as a fundraiser is prohibited in public schools and has been for several years.
Other schools in the District sell pizza as a fundraiser. We received calls from parents complaining that Trinity Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School engaged in pizza sales fundraisers during the school day.
It is fair to conclude that the protestations of current and former Isaac E. Young Middle School employees that our original story was inaccurate is without merit. The District failed to turn over the records from 2012 to 2015 requested in April 2015. There were no records pertaining to pizza sales during a period of time when we have already documented through photographs that pizza sales by Linda Frasca in the hall near her desk did occur. Our subsequent records made in July 2017 show there are no records from April 2015 to October 2015 and no records from May 30, 2017 to present.
The records that do exist are incomplete in many ways but do serve to support our conclusion that there are large sums of money unaccounted for from the longstanding pizza sales operation run by Linda Frasca at Isaac E. Young Middle School.
Further, senior school officials have been aware of the illegal pizza sales operation since at least the Winter of 2016 and taken no steps to put an end to the practice or install proper financial controls at Isaac E. Young Middle School.