San Diego School Board President Marne Foster months ago distanced herself from a claim seeking $250,000 for the problems a negative college evaluation had allegedly caused her son.
It was the student’s father, John Marsh, who filed it. Foster told the Union-Tribune she was “not a party to the claim” and would not comment on it.
The problem with that story? Marsh says he didn’t write it – Foster did.
“She brought me a blank complaint form and said, ‘Sign it.’ So I did. And I didn’t think twice about it until there was backlash,” Marsh said.
The claim, a necessary step before anyone is allowed to file a lawsuit against the district, said the college evaluation of Foster and Marsh’s son by a counselor at the School of Creative and Performing Arts was “willfully damaging,” and the family needed $250,000 to handle trauma and recoup losses from his rejection to many prestigious universities.
The counselor was suspended for nine days.
After discovering the evaluation, the complaint said, the student had severe anxiety and depression. The family needed $10,000 to pay for trauma counseling.
Marsh said he and Foster have two kids together, but they haven’t spoken frequently over the years. Before he submitted the claim, Marsh said he’d been homeless. Foster found Marsh, he said, and offered him a place to stay.
One day, Foster approached him with the form and asked for his signature, he said. Fearing that she would kick him out of the house, Marsh said he went along with Foster’s request. She later filled in the complaint form on her own, he said.
There is also a problem with the claim itself. It says the negative evaluation was sent to three colleges – USC, Pepperdine and NYU – and says the evaluation was the reason the student was not accepted to his top-choice schools.
But emails obtained by VOSD show that Kim Abagat – the counselor who wrote the evaluation – only submitted it to one school. Soon after, her access to the college application system was cut off, records show.
The district eventually denied the claim, and awarded no money. No lawsuit was filed. But if Marsh’s story is true, it would mean that Foster obtained the letter – which she was not supposed to have access to – and then used it to file a $250,000 claim against the very school district she was elected to represent.
The complaint form contains a warning that filing a false claim is a criminal offense. Andra Donovan, general counsel for the district, declined to comment.
Foster did not respond to a request for comment.
Marsh’s story would represent one more problem for a school board president who has already blurred the lines between public official and mother. A similar conflict of interest was later noted by members of the civil Grand Jury who looked into her actions at the School of Creative Performing Arts, where a principal said Foster helped end her job at the school.
The district later dismissed the Grand Jury report, saying that it had proved no wrongdoing.
But even before the district had responded to the Grand Jury, Foster made headlines yet again, this time for using district resources to advertise for a private fundraiser that benefited her sons. Foster later apologized for the event.