Vanguard Commentary: Nancy Peterson Owes Community an Explanation

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For several years now the Davis School District has gotten largely a free ride.  The focus was on school funding, cut backs from the state, and preserving programs that have made the school district one of the few to offer an array of critical programs and services to student in times of crisis.

While the public is still willing to support the district with parcel tax money, as the result of another strong showing last November, in the past six months, the district seems to have fallen into misstep.

This board has been in office a long time.  Three of its members were first elected in 2005, a fourth, Susan Lovenburg in 2007 and only Nancy Peterson is relatively new.

Right now it is the newcomer who is on the hot seat and for good reason.  There is speculation in the community at least that Ms. Peterson, whose children are reportedly on the volleyball team, has a vendetta against the Volleyball Coach Julie Crawford.

That speculation is matched by the fact that Ms. Peterson was the lone board member to dissent on rehiring the new coach.  She reportedly 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.”

Conflicts of interest are tricky things.  After all, it could be argued that any board member may have to recuse themselves if they have children in the district or who might benefit from a particular program.

However, while it is true that a teacher determines the basis of grade, board members are not typically asked to weigh in on the employment status of a specific teacher so any impact on their children’s teacher or situation is indirect at best.

In this case, you have what at least to some appears to be very individualistic and personal reasons driving a policy decision.  In this case, the appearance of a conflict of interest is far stronger than it would be in a more generalized policy.

Moreover, the suggestion in this community is there is some sort of vendetta or grudge.  Clearly Ms. Peterson needs to step forward and explain herself and she needs to do for the reasons of restoring trust.

Two things happened this year involving Coach Crawford and Nancy Peterson.  Back in February, there was a consent item which included Ms. Crawford’s contract.  Nancy Peterson pulled that item from the consent agenda in an effort to remove Ms. Crawford’s name from being offered a contract.  She was supported by Gina Daleiden but their motion was defeated 3-2.

This provoked a strong letter to the editor by former DHS football coach Dave Whitmire in April.  Mr. Whitmire wrote, “Some members of the Board of Education in Davis are using their power to micro-manage the athletic program at Davis High. Coaches and other district employees are afraid to say anything in support of a coach for fear of losing their jobs. This is a blatant abuse of power.”

“The Davis High Athletic Handbook describes a process to complain about a coach through proper channels,” he continue.  “Why was this process bypassed? Do board members whose children are on athletic teams get to play by different rules?”

He adds, “It is highly unethical, and a conflict of interest, for board members who have children on athletic teams to try to influence or manipulate a sports program.”

The second incident involved Ms. Crawford’s contract as the girls’ volleyball coach in June.  She was denied renewed and that was overruled by the school board on a 3-1 vote with Ms. Daleiden switching sides based on “new information” and Ms. Peterson remaining in opposition.

Accusations now are flying that this issue has actually been going on for two years and one anonymous poster is calling her a “bully.”

They write, “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 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,” the poster wrote on Sunday morning.

They add, “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).”

It is difficult to gauge accuracy of such comments, but there is enough smoke building up in the comment section of both the Enterprise and the Vanguard to suspect that something is awry.

If these accusations are accurate, Nancy Peterson is allegedly using her position on the board to carry out a grudge against a district employee.  That would be an abuse of power.

Even if it is not, it behooves the district to set forth more stringent conflict of interest policies.  The district if you recall had to completely revamp their conflict of interest policies after a former administrator used his position to create an independent educational consulting company using district personnel.

The district needs to take further steps to ensure the integrity of their board and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

And they have to act quickly.  Reasonable people are alarmed at the potential here for abuse and they need answers.

It is time for Nancy Peterson to step forward to provide those answers and if she cannot, she needs to step down or face recall.

This is a far more serious matter than the disagreements over firing previous coaches because this comes down to the allegations and appearance of one member using their public position to carry out private grudges.

The Vanguard has sent an email request for a meeting with Ms. Peterson and will inform the community the results of that meeting, should it occur.  This is no longer a personnel decision, there was a public discussion on this last week and this is now a matter of the integrity of the board.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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.

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43 thoughts on “Vanguard Commentary: Nancy Peterson Owes Community an Explanation”

  1. SouthofDavis

    If David digs a little deeper he will find a lot more parents using pressure to manage the teams their kids play on (not just in Davis, but in every city in California where my friends kids play high school sports)…

    P.S. My brother in law lost his starting position on the Varsity baseball team to a slower, shorter and smaller kid who’s parents were richer, more connected and on the school’s board of governors…

  2. Davis Progressive

    “If David digs a little deeper he will find a lot more parents using pressure to manage the teams their kids play on “

    you’re ignoring the key factor here that nancy peterson is an elected official.

  3. Ryan Kelly

    Rich, connected parents in Davis are used to calling the shots when it comes to creating opportunities for their kids, whether it extra curricular activities or academic programs (AIM). I’ve see the interference by aggressive parents happen too many times with not so good results for the group, for other kids and their own kids. This parent just has found herself with a little more power. I’m glad to see Gina Daleiden distancing herself from this and changing her vote.

    I just wonder what happened that started the conflict between Nancy and the coach and why Nancy would suspend all sense of reason in dealing with it. For Nancy, I guess it really sucks to not get her way. Welcome to the world of many at DHS.

  4. hpierce

    To be clear… in California, by law, “conflict of interest” means a FINANCIAL conflict of interest. There appears to be no conceivable chance of that here. However, there is a more insidious problem that may exist… “abuse of power”. Not sure of the statutory requirements, but using a Dante analogy, “abuse of power” is in a worse part of Hell than a financial ‘conflict of interest’.

    I have no opinion, at this point, as to whether “abuse of power” is a valid concern, or not.

  5. hpierce

    [quote]I’m glad to see [pick] distancing [pick]self from this and changing [pick] vote.[/quote]If there is an abuse of power, ALL trustees, in my opinion, need to condemn/sanction/repudiate the behavior, rather than ‘distancing’ themselves… privately first, then if no correction, PUBLICLY.

  6. B. Nice

    It’s really hard for me to believe that a school boarder member would so blatantly abuse her power. (But it was also hard for me to believe that someone would be stupid enough to forge Shelley Dunning’s name to a petition, and this person turned out to be a Cardiologist.)

  7. David M. Greenwald

    B. Nice: Good point. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and I hope that there is a more innocuous explanation here, but whatever defense she has is being confounded by another error – she is not responding to the criticism.

  8. B. Nice

    [quote]f there is an abuse of power, ALL trustees, in my opinion, need to condemn/sanction/repudiate the behavior, rather than ‘distancing’ themselves… privately first, then if no correction, PUBLICLY.[/quote]

    I agree. If abuse of power occurred other board members need to do more then switch sides. Gina changing her mind does not bode well for Nancy or Gina.

    In reference to the boys volleyball team if Crawford’s actions were so bad that she shouldn’t have been rehired Gina should have held firm (regarding the girls team), if her action were not that bad, Gina should have never voted against her to begin with.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    hpierce: While it’s not a monetary conflict of interests and therefore isn’t going to trigger state laws, it is a conflict of interests in the plain meaning – she has two interests her duty as an elected official and her kids well-being, and they conflict in this case. But abuse of power may be a better and cleaner description.

  10. hpierce

    [quote]But abuse of power may be a better and cleaner description. [/quote]My point was also, it is WORSE (IMHO) than a financial COI, if for no other reason that it is not discernible from public report requirements. And, actually, her children’s “well-being” may have been adversely ‘served’ from her actions. Pariah?

  11. Hmmmm...

    “…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”

    Is the athletic director an at-will employee, a tenured teacher, or does he have some other status? Is his job truly at risk if he has a difference of opinion with one Board member?

  12. B. Nice

    [quote]but whatever defense she has is being confounded by another error – she is not responding to the criticism.[/quote]

    I agree, her silence is working against her, unless of coarse it’s less damaging then the truth…

  13. wdf1

    Hmmm: [i]Is the athletic director an at-will employee, a tenured teacher, or does he have some other status? Is his job truly at risk if he has a difference of opinion with one Board member? [/i]

    I understand the athletic director to be on par with administrative level staff. As such, he wouldn’t fall under the same procedural guidelines as teachers. But he probably has a teaching credential (I understand that most principals/VP’s do).

  14. Mr.Toad

    My guess is that the Athletic Director is tenured if he has served in the district for two years. However that doesn’t mean that he must be the AD. The district could assign him any position he has a credential to teach.

  15. Mark West

    This is a ‘court of public opinion,’ not one of law. A failure to respond to the allegations will be far worse than would an admission of guilt followed by a sincere apology. That said, I think the person who has the most to lose in this case is the veteran Board member whose reputation is being tarnished by association.

  16. B. Nice

    [quote]That was overruled by the school board on a 3-1 vote with Ms. Daleiden switching sides based on “new information” and Ms. Peterson remaining in opposition.[/quote]

    I’m assuming she’s (Daleiden) not talking either?

  17. David M. Greenwald

    Gina Daleiden just called me. She told me her no vote was based on the fact that she felt the agenda item was premature and should have been held off for a few weeks to get all of the facts.

  18. B. Nice

    [quote]Gina Daleiden just called me. She told me her no vote was based on the fact that she felt the agenda item was premature and should have been held off for a few weeks to get all of the facts.[/quote]

    Interesting, did she say anything about her vote against Crawford as the boys volleyball coach?

  19. B. Nice

    [quote]Sorry that was what I was referencing. Hers was a procedural no vote, not a vote against Crawford.[/quote]

    Right duh, sorry, I keep thinking she voted against her twice….

  20. Hmmmm...

    I think Dennis Foster is a principled person. It doesn’t make sense to me that the threat of reassignment would motivate him to do something that would hurt student athletes or the athletic program. Reassignment still feeds your family. Maybe some more apologies should be called for.

  21. Mr.Toad

    We could take Gina at her word or we could speculate. I’m going to speculate because her story doesn’t make much sense. I think she changed her vote because she heard from the community, both in comments on the Enterprise and from people speaking to her directly, how pissed off everyone is about the treatment of Coach Crawford.

  22. Mr.Toad

    “That said, I think the person who has the most to lose in this case is the veteran Board member whose reputation is being tarnished by association.”

    i disagree. Sheila voted right so I don’t see the problem. Gina changed her vote and got off the hot seat. The person whose reputation is damaged, in the court of public opinion, is Peterson. She pulled the consent item and made the derogatory remarks when she voted no the second time.

  23. David M. Greenwald

    Mr. Toad: she told me she this was the issue at the February vote and it was reported in the Enterprise. I can’t find the February article, but maybe WDF or someone else can.

  24. Anonymous Pundit

    You appear to have set a very low threshold for resignation/recall… which may be a good thing.
    How should this apply to judges who refuse to admit or correct their “errors”? How should this apply to public department heads hiring their friends? How should this apply to politicians acting in a manner to maximize their campaign contributions?

  25. Mr.Toad

    Peterson’s problem is that she double down with her remarks challenging the integrity of Coach Crawford while hiding behind confidentiality of personnel. My problem is her trying to have it both ways.

  26. wdf1

    DMG: [i]Mr. Toad: she told me she this was the issue at the February vote and it was reported in the Enterprise. I can’t find the February article, but maybe WDF or someone else can.[/i]

    I don’t think that moment was immediately reported in the Enterprise, because I think to most, it didn’t seem like a significant moment. You can see the video of the moment at 12:15 here ([url]http://djusd.davismedia.org/content/february-7th-2013-school-board-meeting[/url]). It lasts only a couple of minutes.

  27. B. Nice

    [quote] You can see the video of the moment at 12:15 here. It lasts only a couple of minutes.[/quote]

    Thanks for the link. (and the time tag). That whole thing seemed weird. Nancy must have known before hand she didn’t have the votes. What was the point in pulling Crawford’s name. It struck me as a power play…

  28. B. Nice

    I’m still a little confused about what a “no” vote meant at the Feb. meeting. Where Gina and Nancy voting to remove Crawford as coach, or were they voting to delay voting to confirm her as coach, so they could have further discussions. (If the later is the case then I better understand why Gina voted no.)

  29. SODA

    and B Nice, my earlier point is what ‘additional facts’ did Gina have to now reverse her vote…..
    When I was on a professional board, we had hiring/firing power over the CEO and CFO, not individual personnel decisions.

  30. B. Nice

    David wrote:

    “Gina Daleiden just called me. She told me her no vote was based on the fact that she felt the agenda item was premature and should have been held off for a few weeks to get all of the facts.”

    so Soda did she technically “reverse” her vote, or in Feb. was she voting to delay a vote.

    To anyone, does the school board gets final approval on all district employees?

  31. wdf1

    B. Nice: [i]I’m still a little confused about what a “no” vote meant at the Feb. meeting. Where Gina and Nancy voting to remove Crawford as coach, or were they voting to delay voting to confirm her as coach, so they could have further discussions. (If the later is the case then I better understand why Gina voted no.)[/i]

    The school board approves all hires in the district. The administration oversees the selection of all personnel and presents their final selection to the board. Normally this is a rubber stamp approval process that goes through the consent agenda. It’s a way to put into the public record of the district who began or finished their employment. The school board usually only gets more personally and directly involved in hiring decisions for top positions — Superintendent, CBO, Associate superintendents, maybe the principal of DHS — but not for individual coaches, teachers, or support staff.

    Peterson pulled the certificated personnel report from the consent agenda and asked that Julie Crawford not be offered a VSA (Variable Service Agreement) contract to coach boys volleyball. It is a way to block Crawford from coaching. Daleiden supported Peterson’s position because she said she wanted more time look at the issue with Crawford. The other board members didn’t have that hesitancy and voted to offer the VSA contract to Crawford.

  32. B. Nice

    wdf-thanks for another one of your clear explantations.

    I’m willing to giving Gina the benefit of the doubt. She may have been concerned with something she learned from parent or fellow board members and felt she needed to explore things further before confirming Crawford as the boys coach.

  33. Ginger

    Ryan Kelly [quote]Rich, connected parents in Davis are used to calling the shots when it comes to creating opportunities for their kids, whether it extra curricular activities or academic programs (AIM). [/quote] So pretty soon we should see large chunks of our Davis population calling for the elimination of the volleyball program because it the rich, connected parents are abusing it?

  34. davehart

    The abuse of power is simply a type of bullying: Exerting power to control or hurt someone who is not in a position to defend themselves.

    How does one stop bullying? Any person who witnesses it should confront it and report it. After all, bullying is a behavior that thrives in secrecy.

    Bullying isn’t a behavior that can be easily turned on and off. There is nothing to prevent a bully from running and getting elected to public office. Bullies rarely do their nasty work exclusively one-on-one. There are almost always observers in addition to the people who get bullied. People who have witnessed bullying behavior on the part of anyone in or out of public office do none of us a favor by keeping such knowledge to themselves. Hopefully people with that type of information will speak up before the next election and not be cowed into silence.

  35. davehart

    The abuse of power is simply a type of bullying: Exerting power to control or hurt someone who is not in a position to defend themselves.

    How does one stop bullying? Any person who witnesses it should confront it and report it. After all, bullying is a behavior that thrives in secrecy.

    Bullying isn’t a behavior that can be easily turned on and off. There is nothing to prevent a bully from running and getting elected to public office. Bullies rarely do their nasty work exclusively one-on-one. There are almost always observers in addition to the people who get bullied. People who have witnessed bullying behavior on the part of anyone in or out of public office do none of us a favor by keeping such knowledge to themselves. Hopefully people with that type of information will speak up before the next election and not be cowed into silence.

  36. davehart

    The abuse of power is simply a type of bullying: Exerting power to control or hurt someone who is not in a position to defend themselves.

    How does one stop bullying? Any person who witnesses it should confront it and report it. After all, bullying is a behavior that thrives in secrecy.

    Bullying isn’t a behavior that can be easily turned on and off. There is nothing to prevent a bully from running and getting elected to public office. Bullies rarely do their nasty work exclusively one-on-one. There are almost always observers in addition to the people who get bullied. People who have witnessed bullying behavior on the part of anyone in or out of public office do none of us a favor by keeping such knowledge to themselves. Hopefully people with that type of information will speak up before the next election and not be cowed into silence.

  37. volleyballer

    It’s happened again. Just days before the DHS boys volleyball try outs, Coach Julie was removed as coach with no explanation. Tryouts are postponed until a new coach is found, and the boys were actually asked in an email from the DHS principal to recommend someone qualified to replace Coach Julie.

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