Commentary: A District in Turmoil

Share:

davis-high-school

As an open government advocate, I have always been troubled by personnel confidentiality laws which are ostensibly put in place to protect employees from undue intrusions into private matters, but as often as not actually serve to protect those in power  and wrongdoers from transparency and accountability.

The truth is that whenever I inquire about these types of decision with members of the school board or staff, I get a dizzying array of gymnastics and mixed-martial arts as they adeptly avoid tough questions under the guise of personnel matters.

Fine.  But if you want to use these as shields, then we are forced to Monday morning quarterback by looking at body language.  Body language is a matter of optics – you can tell which team is winning and which team is in trouble by looking at the bench and seeing the body language of the players who are there.

By the same token, we can look at the body language of public officials in other ways.  We have a seen a slew of personnel firing at the district in the last few years and some other decisions as well – rarely do we see sure-handed handling of those decision.  They are surrounded with controversy, skepticism, speculation, and sometimes worse.

There has been for example, an open questioning of the performance of the district Athletic Director Dennis Foster.  That speculation figures to growth louder after a two hour closed session meeting by the school board that included a discussion of a football coach who was let go and the aforementioned Athletic Director’s performance evaluation.

Stronger than this evidence is the fact that the Davis school board voted 3-1 to overturn the athletic director’s decision and rehire the DHS girls volleyball coach.  The optics here only get worse, because if the school board has to overrule the athletic director and other administrators involved in personnel decisions, one has to at least question why these individuals are put in place.

The dissenting voice was newly elected school board member Nancy Peterson.  According to an article in the local paper, she cited passages from the district’s handbook for coaches regarding “integrity.”

She said, “My vote reflects nothing more than my continued pursuit of ideals centered on children. I cannot in good conscience vote to approve Ms. Crawford as a coach for young adults.”

On the other hand, board member Gina Daleiden cited “new information” as the reason for overturning the decision to let the volleyball coach go.

The article noted that former DTA President Cathy Haskell expressed concern about the handling of coaching firing that “didn’t seem to be made in a timely way.”

“I hope everyone gets to keep their job and there is clear communication when someone might not be invited back,” she said. “I’m nervous about one board member’s participation and complaints against a particular coach.”

The decision to fire both the volleyball coach and the football coach were controversial – many parents came forward in support of them.

Comments in the Enterprise’s comment section were notable pointed.  Part of the concern is that Ms. Peterson’s son apparently plays under the coach leading some to argue that she should have recused herself and others to speculate that there is a bizarre vendetta going on.

One commenter noted, “I am happy that the rest of the board of education could see past the petty complaints and do what is right for the greater good of the entire volleyball community instead of giving into the pressure of Nancy Peterson.”

They noted, if Nancy Peterson states that “My vote reflects nothing more than my continued pursuit of ideals centered on children. I cannot in good conscience vote to approve Ms. Crawford as a coach for young adults”.

They write, “I must post the question, why is she the only one that feels that way? It seems that what one person wanted at the expense of many has no “integrity” and again shows her personal conflict with the situation.”

The individual writes, “For the future, I would ask for recusal when board members are voting for situations regarding activities that their own children participate in.”

Another commenter noted, “if Nancy Peterson feels so strongly that she ” cannot approve Ms. Crawford as a coach for young adults”, then how can she “in good conscience” allow her son to play for the DHS boys volleyball team and her daughter to play for the DHS girls volleyball team, both coached by Coach Crawford? Seems like Peterson has been caught in a “do as I say, not as I do” situation, among other personal conflicts.”

Another comment notes, “If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s obvious now that this whole ordeal was a result of some bizarre personal vendetta that Nancy Peterson has with Julie Crawford. If Nancy Petersen bothered herself to thumb through the school district’s handbook for coaches to find some warped validation for her dissent, maybe she can also bother herself to pick up a dictionary and look up the definition for irony; maybe then she will feel some kind of shame or embarrassment for calling out someone else for their integrity.”

They add, “I hope in the future that people confront Nancy Petersen and ask her why she tried so hard to get Julie fired. Tried…and failed. This decision is a total vindication for Julie Crawford; a great coach, and an even better human being.”

Finally Maken Sherwood and Maya Gilardi who played under Ms. Crawford said, “We hope that the Davis community realizes that Julie Crawford is not the problem and understands that the true problem lies with one board member: Nancy Peterson. It isn’t a coincidence that Julie Crawford all of a sudden was in question and under a constant microscope immediately after Ms. Peterson was voted into being our district’s newest board member.”

“It’s ironic how Nancy Peterson speaks of integrity when she has shown a complete lack of integrity throughout this entire situation and we have personally witnessed time and time again Ms. Peterson treating Ms. Crawford horribly,” they add. “It is also interesting that all of the complaints against Julie Crawford were made by close family friends of Nancy Peterson and are not the opinion of the greater volleyball community. I hope the Davis community will now think twice about who they put their trust in the next time we need to vote on who is on our school board.”

We are stuck in the same place as always – we have a process that is far from transparent that gives rise to accusations that are probably not altogether fair.

The solution here is to find ways to make the system more transparent, to not make personnel decisions until you are sure that you have made the right move, and once you make the decision, do not agonize over it and revisit it constantly.

The clean cut handling of these kind of decisions makes it easiest for all involved. Clearly something is awry in the district but getting to the bottom of it will take time and energy and when you are dealing with personnel matters, it makes it all the tougher.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Share:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

36 thoughts on “Commentary: A District in Turmoil”

  1. JustSaying

    “…she cited passages from the district’s handbook for coaches regarding “integrity’.”

    “I cannot in good conscience vote to approve Ms. Crawford as a coach for young adults….”

    The problem in his case isn’t one of personnel confidentiality policies. It’s that Ms. Crawford violated the policies by taking her personnel discussions public.

    Where does she get off issuing statements packed with such innuendo and publicly challenging an employee’s integrity? If she cannot behave in a professional manner, she should resign or be voted out.

  2. Mr.Toad

    I agree with Just Saying. Nancy Peterson’s public remarks impugning the integrity of this young teacher while trying to stymie her professional career without providing any underpinning substantiation is appallingly shameful character assassination.

    While just a beginner in politics Nancy Peterson touted her Ph,D from Princeton as a credential. It just shows that book learning doesn’t necessarily teach you how to know right from wrong. It would be bad enough if this was the only case of Peterson demonstrating foot in mouth disease but sadly it isn’t. If you look at the tape of the May 16 school board meeting there is a discussion at the end of the item on technology expenditures where she publicly dresses down Superintendent Roberson making him restate something he said about educational equity. It was shocking to watch. Its too bad that on the T.V. I couldn’t see the body language of the other trustees but I imagine it wasn’t pretty.

    Personally I am not yet ready to call for her head as Just Saying does only because she is a beginner and I’m willing to give her criticism before calling for the axe. Criticism in the hope she improves, something that, from her expressed dismay and lack of understanding, Coach Crawford seems not to have been afforded. Still I am almost there and actually looked up how many signatures it would take to trigger a recall.

  3. B. Nice

    [quote]Stronger than this evidence is the fact that the Davis school board voted 3-1 to overturn the athletic director’s decision and rehire the DHS girls volleyball coach.[/quote]

    David I thought the Athletic director recommend that Crawford be rehired but the Board voted last month to fire her. Then they met again last Tuesday and overturned their initial vote. Do I have it wrong?

  4. B. Nice

    [quote]The problem in his case isn’t one of personnel confidentiality policies. It’s that Ms. Crawford violated the policies by taking her personnel discussions public[/quote]

    To clarify, did you mean to write “Ms. Peterson” or is this criticism leveled against Crawford?

  5. Ryan Kelly

    A parent meddling in the organized activities of their children. This is an official sport in Davis. This parent just has a little more power.

  6. B. Nice

    So if it was the athletics directors suggestion to let her go, why is everyone attacking the school board? (I thought the board was going against his recommendation, which is why I understood people’s ire)

  7. JustSaying

    Yes, B. Nice, I meant Ms. Peterson (the school board member who defamed Coach Crawford when she should have kept personnel matters confidential). Sorry for mistyping.

  8. B. Nice

    [quote]The school board member who defamed Coach Crawford when she should have kept personnel matters confidential.[/quote]

    Is there something she said besides what is quoted in this article?

  9. wdf1

    B. Nice: [i]David I thought the Athletic director recommend that Crawford be rehired but the Board voted last month to fire her. Then they met again last Tuesday and overturned their initial vote. Do I have it wrong?[/i]

    Two different things happening that involve Crawford.

    Crawford’s VSA contract to coach boys’ volleyball was voted on as part of the consent agenda at the Feb. 7, 2013 school board meeting — refer to the first part of the meeting on video here ([url]http://djusd.davismedia.org/content/february-7th-2013-school-board-meeting[/url]). Peterson pulled the personnel report from the consent agenda to pull Crawford’s name from being offered the VSA contract. Daleidan supported Peterson’s motion to deny Crawford the VSA, but they lost the motion on a 3-2 vote. That provoked this ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/leave-coach-decisions-to-site-leaders/[/url]) letter to the editor from Dave Whitmire, former DHS football coach.

    When it came time to renew Crawford’s VSA to coach girls’ volleyball in June, she was denied renewal, and was so informed by Athletic Director Dennis Foster — Enterprise article ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/sports/crawford-stunned-by-announcement-she-wont-return-as-dhs-girls-volleyball-coach/[/url]). That is the back story to the results ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/sports/trustees-vote-to-rehire-crawford-as-girls-volleyball-coach/[/url]) of last Tuesday’s school board meeting, which Greenwald writes about here.

  10. B. Nice

    [quote]When it came time to renew Crawford’s VSA to coach girls’ volleyball in June, she was denied renewal, and was so informed by Athletic Director Dennis Foster[/quote]

    Thanks WDF1, so who denied her renewal?

  11. B. Nice

    [quote]Stronger than this evidence is the fact that the Davis school board voted 3-1 to overturn the athletic director’s decision and rehire the DHS girls volleyball coach. [/quote]

    This is the other thing I don’t understand. According an Enterprise article by Bruce Gallaudet “Crawford,had received glowing performance reviews from Athletic Director Dennis Foster”.

    If this is true, why did he, the athletic director, decide not to re-hire her?

  12. wdf1

    B. Nice: [i]Thanks WDF1, so who denied her renewal?[/i]

    I don’t know, and I think that is probably confidential information because it is a personnel matter. News reporting says that Dennis Foster delivered the message to Crawford. Whether it was Foster’s decision or not is not explicitly clear.

    But one tantalizing clue is that another agenda item from last Tuesday’s meeting was a performance review of the Athletic Director. See item III. C. ([url]http://davis.csbaagendaonline.net/cgi-bin/WebObjects/davis-eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=1545[/url]) A performance review could discuss absolutely anything, but the timing of this performance review suggests a possible connection to staffing of coaches.

  13. B. Nice

    “I don’t know, and I think that is probably confidential information because it is a personnel matter”.

    I was wondering if there was some set procedure in place for the hiring or in this case not rehiring coaches. So we don’t know for sure that the school board was involved in the initial decision not to rehire Crawford for the upcoming girls volleyball season?

  14. wdf1

    B. Nice: I don’t think it’s possible to answer your question without someone breaking confidentiality on an employment issue. But it seems to me that Tuesday’s outcome is probably overall for the best.

    Although it sucks that there is this level of apparent discord on the issue, I’m not as alarmed as I think Greenwald is. Ours is a very involved community when it comes to the public schools. It seems that every single person has an entrenched opinion on how our schools should be run, myself included. As a result there will be conflict. But the positive thing is that it shows that a lot of people care.

  15. B. Nice

    I guess what I’m trying to figure out is the official district procedure for hiring coaches or in this case not askin them to return, and what role the school board officially plays in the process.

  16. the original blue devil

    Hopefully this will clear a few of the above questions up:

    one week before boys volleyball was to start, Coach Crawford was informed that her VSA (variable service agreement) for coaching was pulled because “there was a school board member that was not a fan of hers”. That was eventually overturned due to community pressure and the fact that Ms Crawford has had glowing evaluations throughout her highly successful coaching career at DHS. Boys season started a week late because of this. I might also add that Ms Crawford is a very valuable, talented, and tenured teacher at DHS.

    Nancy Peterson has two children that play volleyball for Coach Crawford

    The VSA for the fall girls season never made it to the board for approval due to the fact that Nancy Peterson has put continual pressure on Dennis Foster to remove Coach Crawford from her position as the girls and boys vb coach. Mr Foster never submitted the VSA as he most likely wanted to keep his job and knew that he would be suffering the same fate as Crawford if he didn’t follow through with removing her. Now all of a sudden you might notice that his job is up for review out of the blue. He probably didn’t want the same fate as the most recently removed DHS principal (which also refused to remove Coach Crawford from her position as requested by Nancy Peterson). The lack of submission for the VSA was also a way to move the focus away from Ms. Peterson and toward Mr. Foster so that it would look like Foster didn’t want Crawford coaching, when in fact it is exactly the opposite. Foster has been a vocal supporter toward Crawford throughout this fiasco.

    Foster has a son that plays boys volleyball.

    Nancy Peterson is a bully, this has been going on for the last two years.

    A coaching VSA is only valid for one year. Coaches typically continue coaching year after year without leaving unless they are done coaching for personal reasons or unless there is some sort of glaring reason that would cause for their removal. This is RARELY the case and most coaches remain at DHS for years and years. The site approves coaches, VSA’s are signed, and then they are submitted to the board for approval (for the last 20 years or more this has just been a formality and all coaches are approved without hesitation). It is just most recent that the school board has taken huge interest in coaches ,if one looks closely, all sports in question lately have had board member children participating in them.

    Ms. Peterson is at the heart of this issue, it is important to realize that all school board members have a responsibility to keep each other ethical and to question when something like the Crawford issue seems amiss. How did it even get this far when others on the board should have been holding Ms. Peterson accountable for her actions. In my opinion, they are all a little to blame for this disaster of a situation that was caused by Ms. Peterson and her personal issues regarding Coach Crawford. They should all be ashamed of themselves. As a community we should expect them to hold themselves to a higher standard, especially if they don’t want to fall in the same category of Ms. Peterson which if one that lacks any kind of ethics or integrity.

    The missing piece of this puzzle is that Ms Crawford has been treated horribly by the board, by the district, and by Ms Peterson specifically for quite some time now. This was all due to the fact that everyone took Ms. Peterson at her word and never questioned this situation. The district and the board owe a HUGE apology to Ms Crawford for the emotional roller coaster that this situation has caused her which has most likely been more exhausting than anyone can comprehend.

    I agree with whoever said it earlier, Ms Peterson doesn’t deserve to be on this board of education and she never did. I hope that the davis community is more careful when voting next time there is an election. I for one did NOT vote for Ms Peterson as I knew that this was going on DURING her campaign for the school board which was during girls volleyball season in which her daughter was playing. At that time Ms Peterson was asked politely to stay away from volleyball until the elections were over, clearing stating that she has had a conflict with volleyball for sometime and used her position on the board for personal reasons.

  17. Davis Progressive

    interesting comments. i too have been disappointed by nancy peterson. i was expecting her to be an advocate for disadvantaged children and i haven’t seen any evidence of that. now it appears she has committed a cardinal foul by involving herself as a board of trustee in a situation where she has children directly involved. have to wonder where the district counsel is on this.

  18. Heidy Kellison

    To the point of the story–open government–here’s a possible solution:

    Upon hiring/rehiring any staff (coaches, teachers, administrators, classified), should employees be allowed to waive rights of confidentiality regarding their personnel files? If so, those who wish for their employment matters to be public would be allowed to have such matters fully vetted. Those who prefer privacy would be protected.

    I have no idea if this is workable, but continued speculation about previous events doesn’t move us forward.

  19. Sherman

    Whenever someone is critical of Nancy Peterson, you can count on Heidy Kellison coming to the rescue! Heidy, the election is over and your job as a campaign manager has been retired. If Nancy believes her stance was appropriate and well-founded then she should be able to address the concerns of her detractors without breaching confidentiality. This is exactly the point of David’s story.

  20. Heidy Kellison

    Sherman (last name?), as far as I can tell, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Apparently, my previous statement was unclear to you, however, so my apologies.

    My question about altering district policy to allow the open forum previous individuals seek doesn’t support anyone. It supports an inquiry around current policy. Are you opposed such a discussion?

  21. medwoman

    Sherman

    Bearing in mind that I am speaking as someone who has no knowledge whatsoever of the obviously complicated back story here, can you explain to me how you read the ( to me ) seemingly innocuous suggestion of allowing individual employees to waive confidentiality rights as a defense pod the actions of Nancy Peterson ?

  22. Sherman

    School Boards shouldn’t be spending much time on personnel issues. Other than accepting recommendations for hiring by the superintendent, creating a position (hence a budgetary decision) or disciplining a staff member (based upon the recommendation of the superintendent), the board should not be taking time on personnel matters. Boards don’t evaluate personnel, especially coaches, and hiring should be left to those who will hold them accountable through evaluation.

    Given all of the issues before the School Board related to budget and the possibility of school district reorganization, I am at a loss as to why the Board would desire to weigh in on athletic coaching personnel issues. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.

  23. Mr.Toad

    ” He probably didn’t want the same fate as the most recently removed DHS principal (which also refused to remove Coach Crawford from her position as requested by Nancy Peterson).”

    If this is true it is a real bombshell. The idea that this debacle has already cost the district a high school principal is beyond outrageous! Can your accusation be supported?

    For all of you anti-union anti-tenure types this case is a perfect example of the kind of abuse of power that teachers need to be protected from suffering.

  24. Mark West

    Mr. Toad: “[i]For all of you anti-union anti-tenure types this case is a perfect example of the kind of abuse of power that teachers need to be protected from…[/i]”

    This situation has nothing to do with tenure or unions. Neither a union nor tenure would protect a teacher from this type of abuse. If the allegations against the Board Member are true they are best dealt with at the ballot box during the next election, or with a recall effort if the public decides it is merited.

    I am deeply disturbed by these allegations. If they are true then a Board Member should be removed from office. If they are false, then anonymous posters here are defaming a public figure. I don’t know which of those two options is true, but neither one should be considered acceptable.

  25. Mr.Toad

    Coach Crawford has tenure in her day job as a teacher. Just think if she didn’t would Nancy Peterson only have gone after her coaching position. I think not.

  26. davehart

    I did vote for Peterson based on her position regarding standardized testing, basic theory of learning, etc. If what is written by David is only half-true, I will work to have her unseated. At minimum, she should have recused herself due to conflict of interest (kids coached by the coach she was voting to remove.) She has a whole lot of ‘splainin’ to do and she’d better start right away.

  27. wdf1

    orignal blue devil: [i]Mr Foster never submitted the VSA as he most likely wanted to keep his job and knew that he would be suffering the same fate as Crawford if he didn’t follow through with removing her. Now all of a sudden you might notice that his job is up for review out of the blue. He probably didn’t want the same fate as the most recently removed DHS principal (which also refused to remove Coach Crawford from her position as requested by Nancy Peterson).[/i]

    Wow. That’s serious. (if true)

    What is Peterson’s specific issue with Crawford? Especially given that she has two kids playing for her? Not enough playing time? Something Crawford said?

  28. Mark West

    It takes three votes for the Board to do anything. One member cannot do anything without the support of two of their colleagues. That either means there were facts to support the actions against the employees, or there is more than one Board member who acted inappropriately. Again, I don’t know the answer, but I would love to see one of the anonymous posters above provide evidence to support their claims.

    So what is it going to be Toad? Devil?

  29. Mr.Toad

    Peterson said “My vote reflects nothing more than my continued pursuit of ideals centered on children. I cannot in good conscience vote to approve Ms. Crawford as a coach for young adults.”

    If she feels this way its fair to assume she wouldn’t want Crawford supervising children in any capacity. Although we don’t know why Peterson feels this way it must be quite chilling for Crawford who has chosen a career leading young people to be publicly attacked in such a manner without her accuser providing any details so that the community can understand what is going on and make their own judgement. We also know Peterson pulled the other VSA from the consent calendar. You are correct that it takes 3 votes but without tenure that would not be reassuring. As for my comment about Roberson and Peterson I think you can listen to the tape.

  30. Matt Williams

    Mark West said . . .

    [i]”It takes three votes for the Board to do anything. One member cannot do anything without the support of two of their colleagues. That either means there were facts to support the actions against the employees, or there is more than one Board member who acted inappropriately. Again, I don’t know the answer, but I would love to see one of the anonymous posters above provide evidence to support their claims.”[/i]

    One of the sidelights to this story has to do with the 2014 City Council election. One of the rumored candidates for Joe Krovoza’s Council seat is Sheila Allen. This Crawford incident may give Davis voters a bit of insight into Sheila’s governing style.

  31. wdf1

    Matt Williams: [i]This Crawford incident may give Davis voters a bit of insight into Sheila’s governing style.[/i]

    Aside from Allen opposing Peterson on votes about Crawford, what insights do you gain about her governing style from this incident?

  32. Mr.Toad

    “Boorish is not the same as unethical. “

    Agreed. I even said I wasn’t yet ready to throw her under the bus. However, it does start to indicate a pattern of behavior showing a lack of discretion that a public figure should demonstrate. This is why I also asked Blue Devil for substantiation on his claim about the departure of the DHS principal because, as I said, that is a bombshell if true.

  33. Matt Williams

    wdf1 said . . .

    [i]”Aside from Allen opposing Peterson on votes about Crawford, what insights do you gain about her governing style from this incident?”[/i]

    Well that is a start (as would supporting Peterson , if that had been the case).

    I’ve never been particularly interested in watching one of the videos of School Board meetings in the past, but in this case I’m thinking that watching the streaming video on the City Council website might be well worth the effort. One learned a lot about Sue Greenwald from watching Council videos especially in the areas of confrontation, conflict, collaboration and compromise.

    Regardless of what the video shows, for many Davis voters Sheila Allen is an unknown commodity, and if she is indeed running for Council, this provides an opportunity to increase their awareness of her.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for