Board Lays Out Appeal Process; Robert Peterson Lashes Out At Board Meeting

Board Member Gina Daleiden (left) lays out board procedure as Sheila Allen (far left), Tim Taylor (right) and Nancy Peterson (far right) look on.
Board Member Gina Daleiden (left) lays out board procedure as Sheila Allen (far left), Tim Taylor (right) and Nancy Peterson (far right) look on.

Thursday night’s school board meeting had a surreal atmosphere as the substance of the agenda item itself – which sought to tighten language on the hiring of the coaches, but did not deal with either the issue of terminating coaches’ contracts or the issue at hand – was incongruent with the small but vocal group of public commenters.

While there was a sizable group of coaches and others involved in athletics, it was not an overwhelming crowd.  Perhaps this was simply the pre-game show, and the masses are waiting for when the Board of Education actually hears the appeal on or before March 6, 2014.

Even the board’s statement, coming out of closed session, which was marked as meeting with legal counsel to discuss existing litigation and the Julie Crawford-Rob Peterson Appeal Procedures, was process-oriented rather than substantive.

Reading from a prepared comment, Board President Gina Daleiden stated, “We would like to be clear about the board’s role in this matter and the appeal process.  The board is not involved in a complaint nor investigation of a complaint, unless and until an appeal is requested.”

“In an appeal the board acts in a quasi-judicial manner and must remain impartial, the board’s first entry point into the Crawford-Peterson matter was last Thursday when we voted to hear the appeal,” she continued.  “Tonight in closed session, we gave direction to our legal counsel regarding the conduct of the Crawford appeal.”

“Adopted board policy and precedent directs the board to hear this appeal in closed session,” she said.  “The question on appeal will be whether the administration’s conclusions are supported by the preponderance of the evidence and whether the administrative remedy is appropriate to the conclusions.”

The remainder of the news from Thursday night came from public comments, many of which defended Nancy Peterson and lashed out at what they considered the irresponsibility of blogs and social media during the course of this controversy.

Of note were the comments of Robert Peterson, who spoke out in public arguing that he needed to have the ability to defend himself and get his side of the story out to the public.

Robert Peterson said, “I’ve gotten to a point with this process where the distortions and the lies and the blogs and the newspaper articles that are uninformed are just intolerable at this point.  I don’t know how to get my side of the story out per se, because everything is restricted, everything is personnel issues, everything is confidentiality.”

He said this issue is not about playing time or starting or not starting, “all of the accusations are essentially irrelevant.  My issue was a disagreement between this coach and her friend the previous coach and my wife at whatever level became simple retaliation.”

Mr. Peterson would go on to state, “It’s documented.  The threats are there.  The email chains are there.  We presented all of this information.  Now we have a situation where the former coach, Leigh Whitmire Choate, who is really the driver of this process…”

“I’m at a point where the blogs as I related to the board previously,” he continued after a brief interruption by Board President Daleiden.  “The previous coach is now blogging, putting links to a 14-year-old’s team to discredit the coach that was hired previously (Rob Cole), whose only interest is coaching volleyball.”  He added, “If he’s connected to me somehow that suggests that there’s some plan  I didn’t know anything about him interviewing or anything about his position.”

“My 13-year-old is linked on the Davis Hub website,” he said.  “My 13-year-old!  Who here is okay with this?  We’ve gone past just harassment to craziness.  I would appeal to the board to end this situation.”

Earlier in the evening Rob Cole, who was contemplated to serve as the interim coach last Friday, spoke out about his experience.  He told the board that he had applied to become the interim volleyball coach, went through the prerequisites “that this board and everyone else has found acceptable.  I was hired and then six hours later I was removed from my position,” he stated.

“It has turned out to be some sort of scandal that my affiliation with boys’ volleyball has turned out to put me into a situation where I was streamlined into a position,” Mr. Cole continued.  “That is 100% false.  I don’t know what new information you have.”

“I am highly qualified to fill an interim position,” he said.  “I’ve worked with Julie.  I’m not looking to take Julie’s place.  I’m looking to bring a high quality level of volleyball back to this district.  You are seriously mismanaging what is going on with these athletes and I think by doing what you did and allowing the superintendent to override what was potentially a good fit is wrong.  I think that it extends the drama.”

One commenter at the beginning of public comment read from the staff handbook that said the district “will not tolerate the staff degrading, insulting, or otherwise misusing their authority towards students.”  She added from the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Coaching Handbook “that a coach must control their ego and emotions and avoid displays of anger and frustration, don’t retaliate.”

Nancy (did not give a last name), during public comment said, “Personal issues aside, you don’t retaliate against a student.”  She added, “The notion that parents shouldn’t question that is ridiculous.”

She went on to state, “As a side note, I think that all of the blogging that’s going on and all of the innuendo that’s been out in social media has really taken on a life of its own.  I think those people should be ashamed of themselves, we’ve created a circus around this issue and we’ve forgotten what the true issue is.”

But Norbie Kumagai told the board, “I’ve always thought that elected officials are held to a higher standard for we have entrusted them to act in our best interest.  I’m troubled by the fact that Trustee Peterson recently chose to recuse herself from actions specifics to Coach Crawford.”  He continued, “Allowing her to vote to authorize the expenditure of $22,000 for a formal investigation which she initiated seems to be a clear conflict of interest.”

“The fact that Trustees Peterson’s husband is now speaking out makes matters worse, we have no way of knowing whether Dr. Peterson is speaking on his own volition or at his wife’s behalf, now do we?” he continued.  “There is a reason why personnel actions are confidential.”

Karl Ronning, who coaches boys’ golf, said that looking at the new guidelines, “What I found missing from these expectations is us as coaches, what can we reasonably expect when we attain this excellence?  Who do we answer to?  Is it the athletic director?  Because one of the things that seems absent to me is the role of the athletic director in these controversies.”

He asked if there is a complaint, “are we going to be informed or will we find out about it second hand?”

Margaret, a parent and a coach for the snowboard team, said, “You guys have a great coaching staff.  You have a phenomenal athletic director.  And somewhere in the system things have gotten screwed up.”

She said, “There’s a pithy T-shirt that says, ‘they play, I coach, you cheer,’ and there needs to be some cohesiveness in the administration.”

Lynne Yackzan said that, as a former Davis High graduate, “Things have changed a lot.”  She said when she was a student-athlete, it was pre-Title IX and she was on the ski team where the coach was having sex with one of the students, and her mother, the team parent, reported it and nothing was done.

“Nancy, if you’re that powerful, can you make it rain?” she quipped.  “I’m really sad about what’s been in the papers and what’s been on the blogs and what’s been on national news.”

She continued, “By and large most of these coaches are pretty damn good.  They do a great job.  They should be mentoring anyone who comes on line.”  She would add that it is difficult to deal with Davis parents, “but communication is key and I believe if it would have happened early on, and been mediated early on, this problem would have been dealt with.”

Greg Simmons, speaking as a citizen, said, “I’m concerned about the money we’re spending to adjudicate what should be worked out with a handshake.”  He added, “We need a place where people can come and discuss their differences and their difficulties.”

The student representative, Yasmin Kouchesfahani, said that “one of the coach’s main jobs is protection.  To protect their students.  I think as adults in this community, your role is to protect students, I guess it’s really disheartening to that that’s not what’s been happening from a student’s perspective.”

She would add, “That Davis Enterprise article, it was awful and I just wanted to say that I think we need to prioritize the student’s protection.”

As we stated at the outset, the appeal will be heard some time in the next two weeks.  Board President Gina Daleiden laid out some of the process above and in some of the previous articles.  The board at this point has not read the report, so they were not able to comment on specifics.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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64 Comments

  1. Jim Frame

    Greg Simmons speaking as a citizen

    I wasn’t at the meeting, but that may have been Jeff Simmons, whose wife Olga has also appeared before the Board to address the matter. Their son is a sophomore and plays volleyball.

      1. iPad Guy

        Not really “was recused.” People only “recuse themselves,” if I understand the action.

        Ms. Peterson recused herself from the consideration of Coach Crawford’s appeal. She had no reason to recuse herself from anything under consideration last night.

  2. iPad Guy

    “While there was a sizable group of coaches and others involved in athletics, it was not an overwhelming crowd.”

    What’s your estimate on the number? Are school board meetings usually televised? Is the appeal executive session noticed, and is the result voted on in an open session?

  3. SouthofDavis

    Rob Peterson wrote:

    > because everything is restricted, everything is personnel
    > issues, everything is confidentiality.

    I’m not a legal expert, but I’m pretty sure as a private citizen Rob can say anything he wants (so it sounds like saying “everything is confidentiality” just means he does not want to tell anyone what is really going on…

    Then Lynne Yackzan wrote:

    > when she was a student-athlete, it was pre-Title IX and she was
    > on the ski team where the coach was having sex with one of the
    > students, her mother, the team parent, reported it and nothing was done.

    I appreciate all the work Lynne has done over the years for DHS, but I don’t get why a Davis Grandma needs to tell the school board a story about something that happened at Davis High more than 40 years ago (Maybe her husband can come to the next meeting when the board hears the Crawford appeal and tell us how his southern high school classmates reacted to the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and what the coaches were doing to integrate the sports teams)…

    1. David Greenwald

      “I’m not a legal expert, but I’m pretty sure as a private citizen Rob can say anything he wants (so it sounds like saying “everything is confidentiality” just means he does not want to tell anyone what is really going on…”

      This ends up in a gray area because of his wife’s position, but generally speaking he could turn over the emails to the press if he believes that they add to the discussion.

          1. hpierce

            But, e-mails to and from the district are “public record”, albeit on matters related to personnel issues, they may be ‘redacted’, but the fact that communications occurred is, I believe, public record.

        1. iPad Guy

          Michelle, after watching, I think it’s obvious that Dr. Peterson is referring to the confidentiality of the DJUSD personnel records (because he anticipates that the investigation report confirms his complaint and would put all the blog speculation and innuendo to rest).

          On the other hand, he and Coach Crawford are free to say anything and release what they have. Both have revealed information that seems quite personal in order to convince the public of the righteousness of their respective cases.

          There is no gray line or gray fuzzy line about their right to have done what they’ve done so far. SouthofDavis is correct about Dr. Peterson’s rights.

          The public should have no expectation that either the coach or the father is obligated to provide any more for our amusement or enlightenment. Demands to “put up or shut up” are foolish. Given the father’s apparent confidence in his cause, the coach’s supporters might be better be careful about what they ask for.

    2. PhilColeman

      There’s enough meat on this bone to fight over. Let’s all try and refrain from comments of any kind, dating back to the last millennium, involving persons who have noting to do with the topic at hand. Nothing constructive can be achieved from the pursuit of tangential or irrelevant issues and gossip.

    3. iPad Guy

      I appreciate Lynne Yackzan’s reminder about an earlier era at Davis High School (no, not the Afghanistanism of the SoCal example). Fair treatment of DHS girls has come a long way since Title IX. And we should celebrate the advances, including the DHS contemporary requirements about sports coach accountability for respecting our student athletes. Thanks, Ms. Yackzan.

  4. Mark West

    “the board’s first entry point into the Crawford-Peterson matter was last Thursday when we voted to hear the appeal,”

    This statement is only true if you view this latest complaint in isolation from everything that predated it. The Board’s first entry point was when they allowed Nancy Peterson to pull the Coach’s contract from the consent calendar last year even though Nancy had previously directed personal complaints about the Coach to the District. This is not one isolated incident, but rather a series of poor decisions.

    What should be evaluated is the hostile work environment that has been created for this coach by Nancy Peterson, her spouse and the Board.

    1. David Greenwald

      “This statement is only true if you view this latest complaint in isolation from everything that predated it. ”

      Fair point. Obviously I meant in the current round of discussion, but point taken.

    2. hpierce

      It’s interesting. At least with the City Council, a member can register a no vote, or abstention, without pulling the item from the consent calendar. Have no idea whether DJUSD has provisions to do likewise. Mean nothing other to understand the processes.

    3. TrueBlueDevil

      Good points. The Enterprise today said that Nancy Peterson also filed several oral complaints against Coach Peterson in 2012-13? That must be at least 3 oral complaints, and 3 written complaints? At some point, if the AD and principal back her, and give her positive evaluations, when is this seen as a pattern of harassment by the Peterson’s?

      This also could be seen as an extension of her alleged treatment of Ms. Choate. At what point do we consider families who have been in Davis for decades as upstanding citizens and educators, being overwhelmed by wealthy Ivy League parents?

      If the emails come forward, we’ll see. And if this “pissing match” included a colorful (email) word or two, and some bluster, I take it all in a two-decade context. Two middle-aged women exchanging emails is one thing, but we see that two successful, valued coaches are out the door at the hands of someone with superior institutional power. Mr. Greenwald nailed it.

        1. iPad Guy

          Thanks, I tried Channel 17 (maybe a little too early), but only got a “nothing scheduled” note.

          I felt as though I was there, thanks to David’s and Chris’ repots, though. Did they miss anything?

          P.S.–I’d hope Nancy Peterson would continue to limit her comments about about sports coach policies until well after the complaint matter is over. Although she has lots of experience and opinions, few are interested in hearing about them.

          1. Rich Rifkin

            Apple TV instead had a screen shot of Galas, Fujis, Braeburns, Pink Ladies, Bonzas and Granny Smiths.

          2. growth issue

            Great, let’s go for it. I’m sure we can “borrow” some money from the water project and pay it back over the next 10 years and it’ll be like we didn’t even spend hardly anything, if you use the POU funding logic anyway.

          3. Matt Williams

            Actually G.I. the water/wastewater Enterprise Funds spend either nothing or virtually nothing on cable and/or a fiber network. Therefore saving 10% on the annual cable/fiber bill would save the taxpayrs and ratepayers zero dollars each year.

            On the other hand the water/wastewater Enterprise Funds will be spending approximately $6 million per year on electrical service. Saving 10% of $6 million would save the taxpayrs and ratepayers $600 thousand each year.

            Investigating the potential to save $600 thousand per year is very different than investigating the potential to save zero dollars per year

  5. Fremontia

    Both Nancy and her husband looked like they were barely holding it together. The scadenfreude was fabulous. Rob Peterson complaining about the blogs was great. Hey Rob, welcome to 21st century America. Then going after Coach Choate but guess what she isn’t some anonymous blogger she is a reluctant witness going on the record using her real name laying out the history of abuse heaped upon the volleyball coaches by your family. Yet the greatest irony was Rob crying out that this has got to stop when his family should have done that before filing another complaint against the coach. Still it is not too late, although much damage to many reputations has occurred, you could simply give it up and withdraw your complaint and maybe even pay the district back for its inconclusive witch hunt.

    1. Davis Progressive

      that would take integrity that has been lacking in the process from day one. rob doesn’t seem to understand that by venturing into the fray between his wife and the coach, he exacerbated the problem. they needed to make the decision before the vote – are they parents or is nancy a school board member. if nancy wanted to be a parent, then she should have conflicted out. if nancy wanted to be a school board member she should have moved her daughter to a different sports team. by trying to do both, she created the problem.

      i’ll echo the comment above – if rob wants to talk about emails, then he needs to allow others to judge those emails.

  6. Michelle Millet

    I’m confused about when Rob Peterson made his public comment. Was it at the beginning during open comment? Or was it during the discussion of the Athletics Policy Update?

    1. Mark West

      His comments were made during the discussion of Athletics Policy. The Board President even stopped him during his presentation to make sure he knew that the discussion was about the broader policy.

    2. yellow

      Rob spoke during the open comment for the Athletics Policy Update, and that’s why he was interrupted by Gina. She said something like “this is for discussion of the athletics policy” and he replied that he submitted his “blue card” to speak before but they didn’t call his name until then and also made reference to speaking on the same topic as the person who was at the mic right before him, so Gina just let him continue.

        1. wdf1

          I think it is at the discretion of the board president and perhaps how many people they anticipate speaking for public comment. When hardly anyone is present to give public comment, then the board president may not even care if you did or didn’t fill out a blue card.

          1. Ingrid Salim

            the blue cards or so that names can easily be recorded. Anyone who wants one, gets one. They are available ‘by topic,’ so if you have a general comment at the beginning, you’re asked to fill that out then, and then as each subsequent topic opens up for public comment, new blue cards are handed out. It’s more efficient than having the stenography ask each person to spell a name.

    1. SouthofDavis

      wdf1 wrote:

      > The Davis Enterprise’s take on the athletics issues in last night’s meeting:
      > Chris Saur, February 21, 2014: Coaches turn out to hear athletics policy update

      When I clicked the link and saw the Enterprise photo of Nancy the picture added the 1,000 words to Fremontia’s comment: “Both Nancy and her husband looked like they were barely holding it together.”

      P.S. I’m wondering if anyone else thought about what could be in a cartoon style “thought bubble” above Nancy’s head after looking at the Enterprise photo…

  7. iPad Guy

    The Vanguard: “(In an appeal the board acts in a quasi-judicial manner and must remain impartial,)…the board’s first entry point into the Crawford-Peterson matter was last Thursday when we voted to hear the appeal,”

    Mark: “This statement is only true if you view this latest complaint in isolation from everything that predated it. ”

    David: “Fair point. Obviously I meant in the current round of discussion, but point taken.”

    David shouldn’t accept any blame for this comment. He’s just quoting Ms. Daleiden pretty much the same way Chris Saur did in today’s Enterprise story.

    On the other hand, it is The Vanguard that (from the day the complaint was revealed by The Enterprise) has attempted make the “”Crawford-Peterson matter” that’s facing the school board now something different than it is.

    The “Crawford-Peterson matter” about which the school board president refers is a fairly straight-forward issue:

    Gina Daleiden: “The question on appeal will be whether the administration’s conclusions are supported by a preponderance of evidence and whether the administrative remedy is appropriate to the conclusions.” (The Enterprise, 2/21/14)

    So, the first part requires determining whether the administration evaluation and outside investigation confirm the official complaint that Coach Crawford engaged in retaliation when she cut the student-athlete from her team.

    And, the second part requires weighing the “remedy” (everyone seemingly assuming it’s the failure to rehire) was an appropriate IF the board accepts the administration’s conclusion using the investigation.

    The only reason the board considers the 2012-13 school year is to confirm what everyone already accepts–that Board Member Peterson complained about Coach Crawford, thereby setting the stage for the alleged retaliation.

    It’ll be interesting to find out what weight the board gives the expensive investigation. So, far it’s been labeled as too little (standards that are too low-bar) and as too much.

    Of course, neither David nor anyone else providing opinions even has glanced at the investigation report. Trying to discredit the investigation ahead of board consideration only is useful it one is concerned that it might support the complaint.

    The daily drumbeat about the board censuring Nancy Peterson for her actions and comments is fruitless. Even if the board were like-minded and considering such action, it would have happened at the time. It’s unreal to advocate that the board go back there, somehow triggered by it’s deciding an appeal that the coach retaliated.

    The ever-increasing attempts to smear the “wealthy Ivy League…carpet-baggers” are the kind of personal attacks that supposedly are discouraged by The Vanguard and eliminated by the moderator.

    Shameful as they are, the attacks are a logical outgrowth, however, of The Vanguard’s constant contentions that the family has no right to speak up when they think retaliation has been visited upon them along with the repeated implications that they deserved what they got.

    Focus, people! There’ll be plenty of time after the board decides to second-guess them and to attack any or all of the participants caught up in this unfortunate mess.

        1. SouthofDavis

          iPad Guy wrote:

          > The ever-increasing attempts to smear the “wealthy Ivy League…
          > carpet-baggers” are the kind of personal attacks that supposedly
          > are discouraged by The Vanguard and eliminated by the moderator.

          The Vanguard has never had a problem with bashing rich educated white South Davis residents who live in a million dollar home…

          Any comment that is negative toward a poor uneducated black Davis resident who lives in a camp by the East Davis railroad tracks will come down immediately.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Mr. Ipad, I’m not usually so conspiracy / soap-opera minded. Really. But drama after drama, it continues, something that would have NEVER have happened 2 decades ago. Then look at the iSeeDavis video story … that segment is so telling … so I have to conclude that the Peterson’s are totally tone deaf; entitled; or both. Page 1 of the letter questions whether Coach Crawford is “incompetent” … REALLY? I’ve followed athletics for decades, and rarely does an incompetent coach engender support and garner COTY awards. Maybe Coach Crawford did something wrong, I don’t know. But its clear that Dr. Peterson held a serious grudge from last year. This focus (obsession?) with volleyball coaches has gone on for years, and involved 2 separate coaches. Read Bob Dunnings column today, it might do you some good.

    1. iPad Guy

      Thanks, David, for the link. I hope that watching the first hour 75 minutes pretty well takes in what’s under discussion here.

      Given the elephant in the room, I think that the board members (including Nancy Peterson) did some good work in evaluating the district’s sports policies.

      Tim Taylor’s summary after the public comments pointed out that most comments dealt with the “Crawford-Peterson matter.” Dr. Peterson’s frustrated comments the most direct and, again, add more fuel to the community fireworks.

      It seems apparent that the policies that guide coaches, the administration and the school board aren’t adequate. The discussion (surreal, as David noted, and awkward as well) made it clear that roles and responsibilities for all players in the system aren’t clear to anyone involved.

      The impressive, impassioned testimony from coaches made it obvious that they can’t depend on the present setup for the certainty they want for their coaching duties. The timing for deciding on VSAs doesn’t meet anyone’s needs.

      The roles of the principal and athletic director (in particular) are too vague. What are their responsibilities in hiring and in dealing with the many concerns that apparently are raised by athletes, coaches and parents before they become official complaints?

      The nitpicking about language details was fine, but much more substantial work still needs to be completed before all of the policies are ready for prime time. While the “Crawford-Peterson matter” may have triggered a much-needed policy look, trying to do some quick rewrites in the middle of the controversy will be ineffectual. The district needs to take the time to do this right.

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