Last Thursday, the Davis School Board met in closed session to discuss the process by which to handle the Julie Crawford-Robert Peterson Appeal Procedures.
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 big news from the meeting were the comments by Robert Peterson himself and Coach Rob Cole.
This week, while the board will tackle the strategic planning session in a special meeting, they are also set to discuss, with legal counsel, existing litigation and the Crawford/Peterson Appeal Procedures in closed session.
On Monday, Board President Gina Daleiden completed her answering of questions from the Vanguard. Once again the format is most conducive to the Q&A format. As we warned previously, Ms. Daleiden is bound by a number of different personnel laws.
Board President Gina Daleiden told the Vanguard, in addressing additional questions, that since “the School Board is now acting in a quasi-judicial role in a current appeal process, we each have to maintain impartiality until the conclusion. This means I cannot answer specific questions about my opinions related to the matter.”
She added, “The Board does desire to be as transparent as possible. In order to follow through with our role in the appeal, however, we must protect impartiality.”
With that in mind, some of these answers are more vague than perhaps we would want them to be.
Vanguard: What, exactly, ARE grounds for dismissal for a coach, principal, administrator?
Gina Daleiden: Administrators and coaches on VSA’s are two different categories of personnel, though they both have some component of “at-will.” Administrators are “at will” employees, meaning that they may be released from their administrative position for the following school year once they are noticed by the District by March 15. They may be released mid-year for cause. Coaches are hired on a VSA, or variable services agreement. Currently, coaches are hired for the season of the sport they coach, though the BOE has indicated in Board meetings that we intend to change this as we revise our Board Policy and Administrative Regulations on Athletics. Because coaches typically work with athletes before the season officially begins, we want the VSA’s to run for the year so all student contact is covered by contract. All coaches are considered “at-will.”
Vanguard: Who is responsible for evaluating these non-union employees?
Gina Daleiden: Generally the administrative employee’s supervisor is responsible for evaluation. DHS coaches are currently evaluated by the High School Principal. The policy/regulation revisions give specific timelines for this. See the last Board meeting agenda online for the draft.
Vanguard: Are they provided clear evaluations with specifics and time to improve?
Gina Daleiden: There are clear components for evaluation for both. Time to improve generally depends on the area needing improvement, infraction, history, etc. But it is not required for at-will employees, once the timeline for notification is met.
Vanguard: On what basis can/does the Board overturn them, and why would they do so when their own district personnel have already made a decision?
Gina Daleiden: Are you asking on what basis might the Board choose not to support (majority vote) a particular recommendation for hire or a VSA for approval? Depending on the position, top District staff will share background and specifics with the Board, we may see references and/or resumes (again, depending on the level of the position), the Board may receive information from the community , and the Board may ask our staff various questions. This all contributes to the individual votes on approval in open session. As with any staff recommendation, each Board Member ultimately must decide if he/she is satisfied or comfortable with the information and the recommendations, given the circumstances and on a case-by-case basis. In instances when a Board Member feels he/she does not have enough information to make a decision, and the administration or Board majority is not interested in holding over the item for a future agenda, he/she may vote “no” on that basis alone. In my experience, it is more appropriate to vote “no” with an explanation in these cases, as opposed to abstaining, as an abstention is usually reserved for conflict (legal or personal). This choice is up to the individual, though.
Vanguard: Once a coach’s VSA agreement gets to the school board, what grounds do school board members have for not approving the agreement? That is, can they just do it at will, or do they need to show that the applicant is in violation of some district policy?
Gina Daleiden: VSA positions are at-will.
Vanguard: When a parent has a complaint about a coach is there system in place for them to lodge this complaint?
Gina Daleiden: The complaint process is described in DJUSD Administration Policy as previously submitted. Usually, complaints filed are considered confidential by the School District, and, as previously described, details, or even the existence of complaints, are not known to the Board until an appeal reaches our level, in order to preserve the impartiality of the Board acting in a quasi-judicial manner with possible appeals.
Vanguard: Why was there a delay from the investigation and the conclusion of the report until the decision not to rehire Ms. Crawford as coach? Why did it happen right before the start of the season?
Gina Daleiden: The Board entered this particular complaint/appeals case on Feb 13, when the Board granted the request for a hearing to appeal. We will know further details as we go through the process. The general timeline for complaints/appeals is detailed in the AR’s.
Vanguard: Last summer, Crawford’s VSA was pulled before it went to the school board, then everyone freaked out, then all the sudden the board did vote on her VSA, so how did it get in front of the board? Did the athletic director submit it? Or did it the board just decide on their own that they were going to vote on it?
Gina Daleiden: It’s important to note the Board cannot act unless it is in session and posted on particular items. This is one of the reasons special meetings are sometimes called, to address time sensitive issues that arise between regularly scheduled meetings. Last summer, administrative staff chose not to submit a VSA for Julie Crawford to the BOE for approval and publicly announced that she would not be returning as coach. Soon after this was announced, information came to light that warranted a review. Information surfaced that was not necessarily “new,” but it was new to District staff and the BOE. Based on this information triggering the need for a review of multiple issues (see closed and open session agenda from this meeting online), the Board (Sheila Allen President and Gina Daleiden Vice President) set a special meeting and, in the time leading up to that meeting, District staff decided to go forward with the recommendation of the Crawford VSA for the Girls Volleyball season. At that meeting, the Board voted to approve the Crawford VSA on a 3-1 vote, with one member absent for open session. Only one item on that agenda (the Volleyball VSA) was posted for action.
The Vanguard notes, in closing, that the Board has determined to hear the appeal on or before March 6. That means that they have a week after the special Thursday meeting to hear that appeal.
—David M. Greenwald reporting