Central High School came into being in 1986 with the merger of the French and Charlton-Pollard high schools. According to the Beaumont Independent School District finance department, Central currently holds an enrollment of 1,698 students. Of those students, 85 percent receive free or reduced lunch.
“Our kids are the most economically disadvantaged in the district,” a Central High educator told The Examiner. An ongoing investigation has revealed that despite their economic status, Central students have been the target of numerous schemes on the part of school officials designed to separate them from whatever cash they might have. A case in point is the lavish “Senior Package” graduating students were forced to buy in order to participate in the traditional commencement-related activities.
After receiving numerous complaints from parents concerned at how much money their seniors were forced to pay in order to take part in graduation festivities, The Examiner found parents who said they wanted to come forward with concerns about how seniors were required to pay $325 or more for a “Senior Package,” although the total costs of the services provided in the package leaves tens of thousands of dollars in excess money for Central administration to do with as they please. Seniors who cannot afford a package are not allowed to take part in prom, the senior picnic, the senior banquet, or the parent appreciation ceremony.
“They either buy the package or that’s it. At our school, it’s all or none,” said one parent.
Last year, of the more than 300 Central graduates, only 200 Senior Packages were purchased. To keep seniors on a budget from pooling their resources, guests to any of the senior activities could not be any Central senior who didn’t purchase their own Senior Package.
One common denominator in this rip-off is a familiar name – former Central High principal Patricia Collins Adams Lambert, a convicted felon who pleaded guilty to three extortion charges in New Orleans and is at the center of a massive cheating scandal at Central now under investigation. All this notoriety hasn’t dimmed Collins Adams Lambert’s fortunes at BISD, however; she is now one of the highest ranking
and highest paid administrators in the district. “It’s just a sad, sad situation,” the parent said. “This one person (Lambert) has really spiraled our district down. Here they are supposed to be looking out for these kids who may not have a lot and they’re robbing them. This is nothing but extortion; these kids and their parents feel they have to attend these functions so they pay whatever they say.”
The Senior Package appears to this parent to be a case of the ex-principal giving herself a gift that keeps on giving. For their money, Central seniors forking over the $325 payable in cash or money order only were given access to the senior banquet at the Beaumont Country Club, two tickets to prom at the Beaumont Event Centre, a Rose Cutting ceremony at Central, a plastic yard sign, a picnic at the Thomas Center, and the promise of a 2012/13 yearbook. Just this week, the yearbooks for the graduating class of 2011/12 were delivered to Central because they were not ordered from the printer until April of this year. Payment for last year’s book was made in June 2013. From the 200 paid students, a budget of over $65,000 for the events was collected.
Paid receipts for services show total cost for the senior banquet, including covering meals for administration, teachers and other guests, at the Beaumont Country Club at $9,150. Setup, cleanup, tables and chairs, and security at the Beaumont Event Centre cost just $2,342, which was paid half in cash and half with a Central booster check. The cash payment would indicate not all cash collected for the packages was deposited in Central’s booster account. At retail price of $75, yearbooks totaled $15,000. Roses at a cost of $2 a piece total $400; use of the Thomas Center was free; and yard signs, at $5 each, total $1,000. Grand total, hard costs = $27,892. Which, according to the laws of arithmetic, leaves an excess of $37,108. As revealed in last week’s Examiner, assistant superintendent Lambert’s 41-year-old son, Brian Collins, was in receipt of a large portion of the Senior Package money for “printing” costs although he has no printing press and the campus already employs a graphic designer in Paula Malone, whose name is credited as the graphic design artist on Central’s material. The payment for Lamberts son’s business, “Designergy,” was paid out of the BISD central office and not out of the Central booster account. However, during the same period, Central’s bank records show a cheerleading coach at the campus was frugal enough to order items for her cheerleaders from a vendor, bestpromotions.com, that cost less than a third of what was paid to Lambert’s son and his company. Below is a comparison of materials bought from Collins to that of a quote provided by bestpromotions.com, the vendor used for printing cheerleader materials for just a month prior.
• Flute glasses – Collins invoice, $10.25; bestpromotions, $3.25
• Photo album – Collins invoice, $8.10; bestpromotions, $3.81
• Stadium cup with lid – Collins invoice, $9.15; bestpromotions, $0.83
Collins also billed $40 apiece for Rose Cutting programs. Kinko’s, where Lambert purchased printing for Central prior to her son starting his own business, quoted a price of $27 each for the same service. In total, Collins billed BISD and its students roughly$20,000 for Central senior “printing.” “I’m ashamed of how our students are being treated,” the Central parent said in disgust.
“What they have done is lined the wallets of their friends and family at the expense of our students and their families. It just isn’t right.”
The senior packages have long been a staple at Central even prior to Lambert’s reign, but a longtime educator from the school said before Lambert you could buy the prom separate and the yearbook was not part of the package. Representatives from Beaumont’s two other high schools, Ozen and West Brook, report that senior activities are available for purchase a la carte so that students on a budget can purchase the products they can afford without having to come up with an all or nothing dilemma.