My View: Vanguard Presents ‘You Make the Call’ on Volleyball Controversy

Robert Peterson, husband of School Board Member Nancy Peterson, addresses School Board on Thursday.
Robert Peterson, husband of School Board Member Nancy Peterson, addresses School Board on Thursday.

In the 1980s during Monday Night Football, IBM would have commercials that would show a football play and then ask the fans to make the call as to how the referee should decide the play.  A few commercials later they would come back and give the correct answer based on the rule book.

The current volleyball scandal – which is still very much undecided in terms of final outcome – lends itself well to a blow by blow analysis.  Our view from the start has been that mistakes were made on both side, with the primary blame falling on School Board Member Nancy Peterson and, by extension, her husband Robert Peterson.

February 2013 – Pulling of the Consent Calendar Item

It can be argued that the controversy predated this decision, however, we start here for a number of reasons – primarily because it becomes the first public act in the controversy and the first time Nancy Peterson, who was elected just three months earlier, used her position as school board member publicly.

She requested that Crawford’s VSA (variable service agreement) be pulled from the consent calendar so that her contract could be discussed and voted on separately. Ultimately, Crawford’s VSA would be renewed by a 3-2 vote, with Board Members Gina Daleiden and Nancy Peterson casting the dissenting votes.  Gina Daleiden would explain that she did not have sufficient information to decide the issue.

The action triggered a strong letter to the editor complaining that school board members “are using their power to micro-manage the athletic program at Davis High.”  It was never clear what Ms. Peterson’s reasoning was for the decision to pull the consent item.

Vanguard’s Call: Nancy Peterson clearly put herself into a fray when she pulled the consent item.  She was overruled by the majority on her board.  This would be the first of several precipitating events.

July 17, 2013 – Board Overturns Administrative Decision Not To Return Crawford

In June of 2013, a press release was sent out by the district office announcing that Crawford would not be returning as head coach of the girl’s volleyball team that fall.  Davis High Athletic Director Dennis Foster reported to the Enterprise that he and Davis Schools Personnel Chief Matt Best made the decision not to submit Crawford’s VSA to the school board for approval. He did not comment on a reason, citing that it was “a confidential personnel matter.”

Two weeks later, the board met in closed session and voted in open session to reverse the earlier administrative decision made by Dennis Foster and Matt Best, and rehire Crawford as the DHS Girls volleyball coach for the upcoming fall season.

Nancy Peterson would be the lone dissenting vote in a 3-1 vote, with Tim Taylor not on the phone line when the vote occurred.  She then threw fuel on the fire when she stated, “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.”

Vanguard’s Call: Clearly Nancy Peterson was in the minority on this vote.  Should she have voted at all?  That’s a closer call.  However, what is very clear is that the statement she made was inflammatory and unnecessarily escalated a controversy that could have ended on a 3-1 vote.

The Petersons Send Daughter Back to the Team

Notwithstanding the disconnect with Nancy Peterson’s statement that she could not “in good conscience vote to approve Ms. Crawford as a coach for young adults,” she allowed her daughter to be coached by Ms. Crawford.

Vanguard’s Call:  Nancy Peterson was attempting to wear two hats – mom and school board member.  The moment she decided to vote against returning the coach and make the strongly-worded statement, she should have been making the decision that she needed to be a school board member first.  That meant not putting everyone in a tough spot by putting her daughter back on the team.  She should have sent her daughter to a club team in Sacramento for her senior year.  By trying to be both a school board member and a mom at the same time, she created a huge conflict of interest and, in both cases, put personal needs over the good of the school district.

Coach Julie Crawford Cuts Peterson’s Daughter from the Team

It is not completely clear what happened here and whether Ms. Crawford was justified in cutting Ms. Peterson from the team.  However, we have a 72-page report which concluded that, by the preponderance of the evidence, the decision was at least partially influenced by Ms. Crawford’s relationship with Nancy Peterson.  Robert Peterson claims that, though we have not seen them, there are emails and threats.

On the other hand, others have suggested that the young Ms. Peterson was a problem on the team and undermined Ms. Crawford’s authority.

Vanguard’s Call: The Petersons put Ms. Crawford into an impossible position, but taking it out on the daughter – if that is what occurred – would be a clear error by Ms. Crawford.  The question that the board will have to decide is whether “the Administration’s conclusions are supported by a preponderance of evidence and whether the administrative remedy is appropriate to the conclusions.”  Giving credence to what we know of the report at least leans us in the direction that Ms. Crawford should have handled things better here.

Robert Peterson Filed a Complaint

From his perspective, “My issue was a disagreement between this coach and her friend the previous coach and my wife at whatever level became simple retaliation.”

Vanguard’s Call: The problem is that, even though Mr. Peterson is not on the school board, he is not just a parent.  He is the spouse of a school board member, and by filing a complaint he triggered an administrative response that became conflicted and convoluted.  This is probably the toughest call, because Mr. Peterson may well have a legitimate complaint, but his wife’s standing complicates matters.

District Launches Independent Investigation – Spends $22,000

The district hired Alexander Sperry, who was the lead investigator into a 99.3 hour investigation that cost the district $22,000 and produced a 72-page report.  However, questions quickly arise as to his true independence, as he is a law partner at the Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation, along with the School District’s Attorney, Eva Peek Fichtner.

Eyebrows in the community were quickly raised at the length and the magnitude of the investigation over whether a coach retaliated by cutting a player.

Vanguard’s Call:  Despite the comment by Gina Daleiden who stated, “Generally speaking, you might imagine that when an investigation involves a Board Member or a top administrator, it really needs to be done by someone outside the DO [district office] rather than internally. The nature of the complaint might also necessitate an outside person or an attorney/professional investigator.”

We get that.  But at the end of the day, the length and cost of this investigation made the district look bad.  This fuels back into the perception that at some point the Petersons, as custodians of the district finances, needed to eat one for the team.

Timing of the Non-Renewal

According to published accounts, the district completed their investigation in November.  Julie Crawford, despite the results, was led to believe she would be the coach.

Vanguard’s Call: The District made a series of questionable moves here and this is the most baffling, the one that really added fuel to the fire.  They waited until the last possible moment to tell the coach and the community of their decision, despite having known it for at least two months.

Leak of Letter from Matt Best to Enterprise

Robert Peterson leaked the letter from Matt Best to the Enterprise.  The Enterprise reported that Coach Julie Crawford “retaliated against her leading critic, school board member Nancy Peterson, by cutting Peterson’s daughter… from the girls roster last summer, a school district investigation concluded.”

The Enterprise reported that it “has obtained a letter from Best summarizing attorney Alex Sperry’s investigation and which describes the violation of board policy that may have cost Crawford her coaching job.”

The paper reports, “The investigation was triggered by a Sept. 3 complaint filed by longtime Blue Devil volunteer sports doctor Rob Peterson, Nancy’s husband and Ms. Peterson’s father, after Ms. Peterson was cut from the volleyball team.”

Further, the investigator concluded  that “more likely than not, Coach Crawford’s decision to cut (Ms.) Peterson from the varsity volleyball team was influenced, at least in part, by Coach Crawford’s feelings about Nancy Peterson.”

Vanguard’s Call: This one is not a close call at all.  Robert Peterson should not have leaked the letter to the press, period.  There was no reason to do so other than political reasons, to do damage control.

This is another case where a parent whose wife is not on the school board could possibly act differently than a parent whose wife is on the school board.  But because Nancy Peterson is on the board, this is tantamount to a sitting school board member leaking a private personnel document to the press.

The district failed to disclose the letter and declined to comment on it, on the basis that it was a private personnel document.  Technically Mr. Peterson had a legal right to do this, but as the spouse of a school board member, he should not have done so; he used terrible judgment.

The leak served no legitimate purpose and Mr. Peterson was ill-advised to leak it.

Robert Peterson Speaks to School Board

For those who have not watched Mr. Peterson’s comments, watch the video below:

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 added, “My issue was a disagreement between this coach and her friend the previous coach and my wife at whatever level became simple retaliation.”

Vanguard’s Call: Like the leak of the letter, this served no legitimate purpose.  The item was not on the calendar.  The board will hear the appeal of the non-renewal of Ms. Crawford’s VSA.

As the spouse of a school board member, Mr. Peterson does not necessarily have the right and duty to get “his side of the story out.”  But worse yet, he precipitated most of the problems by sending his daughter into a tough situation following Nancy Peterson’s pointed comments, then filing the complaint and then leaking it.

Moreover, he neither needed to leak the document or get his side of the story out.  The board’s appeal with his wife finally recused could have ended the situation.

Instead, Mr. Peterson threw a can of gasoline on a volatile situation.  He did himself no favors on Thursday night with the content or tone of his comments.  Neither did Nancy Peterson, when she told people in a video that they need to calm down.  Ironically, both Petersons have played a huge role in doing the exact opposite.

Mr. Peterson did not accomplish what he thought he would by speaking.  He would have been best advised from the start to keep quiet and let the process work.


No one comes out of this without both mud and skid marks.

However, as the play-by-play reads, we have to assign primary responsibility to the Petersons.  Nancy Peterson started this controversy.  No one knows what happened before February 2013, but her decision first to pull the consent item and, more importantly, vote on a matter of such personal import in July and then fire off an ill-advised inflammatory statement started the controversy.

Second, once she made the decision, she put the entire district in a horrendous position by then sending her daughter into the coach’s care, whom she had publicly maligned.

Those two key decisions caused this entire chain of events.  That part is almost completely on Nancy Peterson.

Julie Crawford would have been best advised to have left Ms. Peterson on the team.  We are not in the position to know whether the young Ms. Peterson was a problem.  However, if Mr. Peterson is correct, the coach did not handle the situation properly.  Yes, she was put into a terrible position by the actions of Nancy Peterson, but her handling of the matter probably left a lot to be desired.

The school board does not come out of this looking good.  Nancy Peterson clearly had to recuse herself last week from this matter, but the fact that she did not do so earlier was a huge cause of the current situation.  Clearly, the board needs strong language placed into its conflict policy to preclude this from happening again.

The district’s administration bears a far larger share of the blame.  They mishandled this from the start, and it appears to have cost both a high school principal and athletic director their jobs.

But the decision to pull the VSA only to have the board overrule them was a secondary trigger.  We are left to wonder who is minding the store and where the buck stops.

We have an athletic director who may be bullied by board members or just plain ineffectual.  We have a Superintendent in Winfred Roberson who, from all appearances, is a good and honorable man but lacks key experience.  And we have a HR Director who also appears to be a good and honorable man, but who also lacks key experience.

The decision to pull the VSA in June, the length and expense of the investigation, the delay between the November investigation and the February decision are all on administration’s shoulders.

Finally we have Robert Peterson – a father but also the husband of a school board member.  It is a new world in a lot of ways, but, like his wife, Robert Peterson tried to be multiple roles at once and failed.

The decision to send his daughter back to the coach is a bad one and one that one could have predicted would not end well.  Some have suggested that this would be the daughter’s decision, but the moment Nancy Peterson criticized the coach publicly and officially, the decision was taken out of the daughter’s hands.

The decision to file a complaint is a closer call.  Given what had already transpired, it would have been better to let the situation die down.  The decision to leak the letter to the press and speak out on Thursday were not close calls.

In all, there is a sharing of responsibility among the adults in this matter.  However, in the end, the record shows that the Petersons both precipitated and at key moments inflamed the situation and therefore, in our view, they bear primary responsibility for this controversy.

Last week we asked that Nancy Peterson step down – today, we reiterate that call.

—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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  1. growth issue

    “Ultimately, Crawford’s VSA would be renewed by a 3-2 vote, with Board Members Gina Daleiden and Nancy Peterson casting the dissenting votes. Gina Daleiden would explain that she did not have sufficient information to decide the issue.”

    This is something I don’t understand, if Daleiden didn’t have sufficient information to decide the issue why did she vote “no”? Shouldn’t she have abstained?

    1. PhilColeman

      Daleiden and the other Board Members are asked to continue the employment of an employee under their control. The recommendation for continued employment includes supportive signatures of the top school administrators. The item is on the consent calendar, which, by definition, is regarded as routine and non-controversial.

      Fellow Board Member, Peterson, pulls the item and opposes the contract renewal. Daleiden joins Peterson and supports the motion to rescind the Crawford VSA. Now here’s where Daleiden’s later telling of this event takes a peculiar and illogical turn.

      Ms. Daleiden says that she voted against Coach Crawford because she did not have enough information to support Crawford’s continued employment.

      OK, fine, some doubts have risen, despite the support of the administration and the majority of the Board. So, why didn’t Daleiden move to have the item TABLED until she had the later opportunity to make an informed decision when this item was taken up again?

      1. David Greenwald

        Phil: The motion wasn’t to rescind the VSA, she voted against the motion to approve it pending more information. She also voted to reinstate Coach Crawford in the summer.

          1. iPad Guy

            I wonder why the matter didn’t get taken into executive session where personnel matters should be discussed. Couldn’t the board president (Sheila Allen?) have made such a call?

          2. Michelle Millet

            I was wondering about this too. The vote happened in open session, which I guess is standard procedure. I would have thought votes on personal decisions would happen in closed session.

      2. Michelle Millet

        In essence I believe Gina’s no vote was an attempt to table the discussion. My perception of it was that she was not ready to vote yes, and she wanted that on the record.

        Again I have watched many meetings but Gina strikes me as someone who follows procedure and does not make decisions lightly. If she had doubts about approving the VSA, then I think it was appropriate for her to vote against it at the time. Doing so did not mean Crawford wouldn’t still ultimately get the job, it just meant that it wouldn’t be approved that day.

  2. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > Notwithstanding the disconnect between Nancy Peterson’s
    > statement that she could not “in good conscience vote to
    > approve Ms. Crawford as a coach for young adults,” she
    > allowed her daughter to be coached by Ms. Crawford.

    As far as “you make the call” it seems like this proves that Nancy just wanted a “different” coach but could not say:

    “in good conscience I can’t vote to approve “Coach of the Year” Ms. Crawford since it bothers me and my husband that she will not do everything we want her to do so we have a better coach we want in after the board cans her”…

    Like everything in politics you need to look at what they “do”, not what they “say”…

    P.S. Why is it just “questionable” when the district makes an ENTIRE TEAM suffer with no coach (a screw up that almost never happens), but “a clear error” or at least “should have handled things better” when the coach cuts ONE player from the team (something coaches do almost every day)?

    1. David Greenwald

      On your PS, I think the context of how it happened matters. Again, I was trying to couch terms until/ unless we get something more definitive on the issue of retaliation. The board still needs to decide whether the administration was correct both in their assessment and remedy. The purpose of this piece was to try to put that decision by the coach into proper context of everything else that has happened.

      1. hpierce

        At this point, at least two remedies appear to be off the table… reinstatement of the player for the fall season, and likely, restoration of a coach with no significant disruption of the boys’ season.

  3. growth issue

    “The District’s Administration bears a far larger share of the blame. They mishandled this from the start and it appears to have cost both a high school principal and athletic director jobs.”

    Do you really think it will go that far?

    1. David Greenwald

      Last summer the district decided not to bring back either the principal or athletic director, and some believe this controversy played at least some role in that. I didn’t mean to suggest that the current principal or AD were in jeopardy.

      1. AndroidGuy

        It wasn’t the District that decided not to bring back the DHS Principal and AD, it was the BoE. They are marionettes who have hand-picked their puppets, and they constantly and consistently pull all the strings.

    1. hpierce

      “Clearly the board needs strong language placed into its conflict policy to preclude this from happening again.”

      Let’s see, if common sense and good judgment didn’t work, how will an admonition buried in the school board policy handbook result in a different outcome?

  4. hpierce

    “Gina Daleiden would explain that she did not have sufficient information to decide the issue.”

    Ok… the district superintendent recommended the action, believed it belonged on the consent calendar (and I believe the Superintendent should make those decisions WO needing board approval… they need to change those rules), and still voted against the recommendation of the super ‘because she didn’t have enough information’?… I’d give Gina a ‘mulligan’ for that, probably for no other reason than I can reasonably believe that she was trying to support another board member.

    1. Michelle Millet

      I haven’t watched many school board meeting, but judging from what I have, Gina follows procedure. If she says she voted no because she didn’t have enough information, my guess is that is exactly why she voted no.

  5. Michelle Millet

    Gina got clarification from staff, I think Matt Best, that the school board has to, “by law” approve, all district hires.

    I have found this written in our school board policy. I can’t find if this an actual law, or just a policy DJUSD has adopted.

    1. PhilColeman

      Ms. Millet, I’m in your debt. I was going to research the Education Code to confirm this assertion. My recollection of that exchange was that Board Member Allen said that “the law” required that the School Board had to approve all employee hires by rule of law. She then had the staff member specifically affirm this law’s requirement. And he did.

      I was simply astounded with remark, immediately think that the Los Angeles School District must have several pages asking approval of hiring requests for every meeting. You could not find such a law, now I’m going to see if I can find it.

      1. Michelle Millet

        It’s a running joke in my house that I’m horrible at finding the information I’m looking for on the internet. I gave up after about a half hour of fruitless searching.

        Please let me know what you find.

  6. hpierce

    “However, what is very clear is that the statement she made was inflammatory and unnecessarily escalated a controversy that could have ended on a 3-1 vote.” 3-0-1 vote?

  7. hpierce

    “There was no reason to do so other than political reasons to do damage control.” Ironically, it did more to invite “damage” rather than to control it, IMO.

  8. Fremontia

    Its a big clown car crack up. The whole seen is high dungeon comedy and the longer it goes on the worse it is for the school board individually and as an institution.

    But I make the call differently on Julie Crawford. I make it based on the conclusion of the report “that more likely than not” is at best speculative and inconclusive. It is not a standard that should be used as a defense for ousting a coach and invites further litigation costs to the district for wrongful termination, hostile work environment and defamation of character. Anything less than clear and convincing evidence as the standard and Julie Crawford should remain as coach especially considering the real possibility that there is retaliation going on here but it is the retaliation of a board member and her family that is the real problem.

    One call you left out is on who is advising the Peterson’s. Any attorney would have advised them to say nothing publicly. Obviously the decisions for Rob Peterson to file the complaint and Nancy Peterson to recuse herself was calculated to separate the family issues from the governance issues. Either they thought this through only that far or sought legal advise on how to proceed. Either way their behavior is reprehensible; hers the first time around and his for going public claiming he is not bound by confidentiality yet whining when others not bound by confidentiality or in some cases not even required to put their name on the record call out the Peterson’s for being mendacious. As one person said to me, as Rob Peterson was giving public comment about how intolerable things are and how they need to stop, “Then sit down and shut up.”

    1. David Greenwald

      “I make it based on the conclusion of the report “that more likely than not” is at best speculative and inconclusive”

      That was my original call. Then I talked to some of attorneys who told me that that is very specific legal language and that it’s actually a very conclusive finding. There are problems with the investigative process and given the circumstances I think the board will likely reverse the administrative remedy.

    2. hpierce

      As I understand it, Ms Crawford is NOT being ‘terminated’ as an instructor, but the issue revolves around an additional assignment, that has an additional ‘stipend’… is this really about a dismissal of Ms Crawford from DJUSD, or just the supplemental duties? Am I missing something?

        1. SouthofDavis

          David wrote:

          > No you’re not missing anything.

          It would take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to actually “fire” coach Crawford (or any other public school teacher).

          It looks like the Petersons thought they could spend a few months and $22K to get her out as coach (it is looking like they were wrong)…

          P.S. Like him or hate him, Dunning was funny today when he wrote “the player cut from the team is pictured above”…

          1. wdf1

            SouthofDavis: It would take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to actually “fire” coach Crawford (or any other public school teacher).

            What do you base this on?

            Actual evidence seems to show that it doesn’t take that long: source

            In 2011-12, L.A. Unified fired 99 tenured teachers. This compares to 10 in 2009-10, before Deasy became superintendent. In 2011-12, 122 teachers resigned in lieu of being terminated.

          2. SouthofDavis

            wdf1 wrote:

            > Actual evidence seems to show that it doesn’t take that long

            Then linked to a LA Times article that did not even talk about the average time OR the average cost to fire a teacher.

            I’ve been involved with trying to make bad schools better for over 20 years and I have NEVER heard of a California Public School that has fired a “bad” (not counting “convicted felons”) teacher in under a year or for under $100K.

            If wdf1 has an “actual source” that says something different I would like to see it…

          3. wdf1

            I linked to an article that reported court testimony, something that is given under oath, with the possibility of perjury for giving false information.

            Do you have something that says otherwise on this issue?

          4. SouthofDavis

            wdf1 wrote:

            > Do you have something that
            > says otherwise on this issue?

            Let’s start with a quote (under oath) from the article YOU linked to above:

            “He testified that he is simply unable to remove all “grossly ineffective” teachers and that taking action against them has proved prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.”


            “The superintendent said that firing an ineffective teacher requires “volumes of documentation,” can consume several years and is “challenged at every step by the teachers union.” The typical cost can be about $350,000″

            A few years back the LA Times wrote:

            “It’s remarkably difficult to fire a tenured public school teacher in California, a Times investigation has found. The path can be laborious and labyrinthine, in some cases involving years of investigation, union grievances, administrative appeals, court challenges and re-hearings.”


            P.S. You might want to watch the movie ‘Rubber Room”

          5. Realist

            wdf1 wrote: “Actual evidence seems to show that it doesn’t take that long”

            Here is a quote from your la times source article – “Deasy’s testimony began with friendly questioning from McRae. The superintendent said that firing an ineffective teacher requires “volumes of documentation,” can consume several years and is “challenged at every step by the teachers union.” The typical cost can be about $350,000, he said.”

            Taking “several years” to fire a teacher sure seems like a long time to me. I bet it seems like an eternity to the students that have to suffer in the classroom.

            If you are instead trying to show that Superintendent Deasy is doing a good job running multi-year investigations to rid LAUSD of ever increasing amounts of ineffective teachers then I agree with you.

          6. wdf1

            Realist: Fair enough. My quote was in response to Deasy’s testimony that you quoted from the article.

            Attorneys for the other side, however, then brought forward data in which Deasy has taken pride: the increasing number of teachers fired or forced out.

            In 2011-12, L.A. Unified fired 99 tenured teachers. This compares to 10 in 2009-10, before Deasy became superintendent. In 2011-12, 122 teachers resigned in lieu of being terminated.

            The district also barred the transfer of teachers with poor performance reviews and gave principals the right to refuse jobs to instructors who lost positions at other schools.

            Deasy also criticized rules that force principals to decide whether to grant the job protections of tenure to a teacher after 18 months. A longer trial period would result in fewer bad teachers, he said.

            But Deasy also noted that he doubled the number of teachers who were refused tenure and thus were dismissed after their second year. As far as making good tenure decisions, “I believe we have done a good job at accomplishing that,” Deasy testified.

            Attorneys defending the laws were inclined to agree.

            “Well-managed districts don’t grant tenure if the teachers have not established that they’re effective,” said Finberg.

            In your quote, Deasy complains about the difficulty of removing teachers, and yet under the current system, he showed an impressive change in removing teachers deemed ineffective after being in his job for only one year.

            I think the rancor surrounding Crawford’s situation as coach is a taste of what relaxed due process (“tenure”) for teachers could look like in Davis. Clearly the Petersons take issue with Crawford’s performance, but there appear to plenty of parents who appreciated Crawford’s work and resent the instability created by the situation.

            If Crawford really behaved inappropriately, then she should be removed, but I don’t think it should necessarily be easy to remove someone because the district employee rubbed parent the wrong way. I think students suffer from that kind of instability in staffing.

          7. Realist

            wdf – I looked at other articles about LAUSD and got the impression that the teachers they were removing had committed serious validated offenses such as inappropriate touching, sleeping in class and just plain not teaching at all. As far as the Peterson-Crawford situation goes I feel the policy should be the following:

            One parent complaint about an educator of a non-serious offense – Note in teacher file to watch for similar pattern.

            Multiple parent complaints about an educator of a non-serious offense – Warrants investigation and appropriate response.

            Multiple complaints from one parent about multiple educators of non-serious offenses – Note in PARENT file about pattern of harassment. May warrant investigation of parent and/or litigation.

          8. TrueBlueDevil

            The great difficulty in firing poor teachers is why Governor Arnold S. tried to reform our union rules.

  9. Michelle Millet

    I’m wondering if the district should invest in a mediator who specializes in conflict resolution. A good one may have nipped this situation and others like it in the bud.

    The Peterson’s clearly believe they have been wronged, and Rob Peterson seems upset that anyone may doubt this. What I don’t see them acknowledging is that any of their actions may have contributed to this mess. Nor do I see them expressing regret over it. It seems, at this point, he is more concerned with public perception of them, and the “false information” being blogged about them, then any harm they think was done to their daughter.

    Again I bet a good mediator, and I know a good one, would be of great benefit.

    1. iPad Guy

      This is such a good suggestion that one would would think the district would have engaged a mediator last September as soon as they realized that staff efforts to mediate weren’t finding success.

      Even an expensive one would have been worth it if such a move could have gotten the player back on the team for the season or provided some other solution that would have allowed both parties to move on.

    2. Grassroots

      When you speak of mediation, then you can also speak of restorative justice. Given the confusion, it seems that the short answer is to offer Crawford the opportunity to coach and Nancy Peterson the daughter the opportunity to remain on the team. Tier 0ne of the restorative process would focus on restoring coach-student relationship. Tier Two of the restorative justice process would focus on repairing the relationship between supporters of Crawford + Crawford and supporters of Peterson (mother) + Peterson. It seems that council woman Peterson did many questionable acts to remove the coach but none of them illegal. It seems that the validity of the coach’s removal of Peterson’s daughter has not been determined. What we have is a mix bag with the both sides offending and both sides being victimized. Now it is time to have both discuss how to fix the harm done. I recommend Judith MacBrine,

        1. Michelle Millet

          I actually was thinking about restorative justice. I’m not sure what kind of conflict resolution the district attempted earlier in the process, if any, but I think this could be useful practice for the district to use when trying to resolve these issues, especially early on.

        2. Grassroots

          David, restorative justice needs to take place regardless of the graduation. There is unresolved harm here. High school students and the community need to see a better process. Maybe Nancy Peterson and Crawford would work together on another volleyball project, for example, handicapped kids. It is really would be their decision. Our community deserves better.

      1. iPad Guy

        Intervention at the point the coach notified the athletic director that she was cutting a long-time player two months after the public spate is the biggest missed opportunity of this episode, in my opinion.

        Perhaps more experienced administrators all the way up the line could have provided counsel or called in professional conflict resolution/mediation help early in the playing season.

        Perhaps better district policy would have kept those in charge focused on resolving things before it was too late. Once the student athlete lost her last season, there was no going back.

        Whether the athlete was cut to retaliate or because of some team violation, district officials should have worked to get the student playing again as soon as mediation could come up with an agreed to resolution. After all, we’re talking about high school here.

  10. Robin W

    I want to suggest that there was one other problem in how the district handled things, namely, the letter Matt Best gave to Dr Peterson summarizing the investigative report. We do not know the degree to which the summary was accurate since the district wont release either the report of the summary to the public because they involve a personnel matter. For the same reasons, a summary of findings should not have been created or released to Dr Peterson. Perhaps as a complainant he was entitled to be told what the district’s conclusion and action would be on his complaint. But it sounds line he was provided more than that, namely, confidential information about an employee – and information which could waive the attorney-client privileged nature of the investigation and underlying report if the district’s position is that those are privileged, rather than independent. Someone needs to take a close look at what the district’s investigative processes, including what info is released to whom. Query the quality of the legal guidance the district had been receiving here.

    1. Michelle Millet

      For the same reasons, a summary of findings should not have been created or released to Dr Peterson.

      I think this step is actually an official part of the process.

  11. Leigh Whitmire Choate

    IMO there are some things missing that I wonder about:

    Does Alex Sperry’s have any history/background with high school sports or sports at all?

    Does Alex Sperry have any history/background with volleyball (dynamic, positions, rules)?

    I just don’t see anywhere that it matters regarding player performance or the quality of the player pool in which the teams were being made from during tryouts.

    I wonder if that is in the ridiculously large report and if it isn’t, why not?

    Whether you agree with me or not, it does matter when making a team what the quality of player pool you have during try outs and it matters how athletes perform during that tryout. This is not just about one athlete. I say this not to attack players in any way or bring youth into the discussion, but when making a decision regarding who is going to be on a team a coach has to look at ALL the players and how they fit into the program based on their performance during the tryout period of time. I am also not specifically talking about any players, just the tryout process in general.

    I am also not saying that we have to have a specific discussion about players, just that it would be irresponsible when talking about the making of a team and who did or did not make it, that they key components of the discussion be left out. That discussion is not to have on this site, just a discussion that I hope people would think about on their own and entertain different perspectives on this situation, especially the perspective of a coach trying to make a team as I think that is being lost.

    I really hope that the above are key components that are discussed in the closed session appeal as in my opinion these are important pieces of the puzzle that I urge the board of education and all those following this situation not to forget about.

    1. hpierce

      Wonder if some folks believe student athletes should have “tenure”, and they can only be cut if there is clear and convincing evidence, subject to third party review, that they have committed grievous errors.

    2. SouthofDavis

      Leigh wrote:

      > Does Alex Sperry’s have any history/background
      > with high school sports or sports at all?

      I didn’t see any mention of high school sports on his LinkedIn page, but it did say:

      His “Practice focuses on conducting workplace investigations and training employers and employees on best practices. and Provides one-on-one coaching to managers and employees.”

      Maybe Eva Peak (the school district attorney that works at his firm) told the district he is experienced in “coaching” to get an extra $22K job for the firm.

      I would love to see how much Eva (and other attorneys) are billing the school district for legal advice related to this issue of the Petersons trying to get rid of a coach they don’t like (has David sent in a FOI request?)…

      P.S. Alex’s LinkedIn page also says he has written about “Gender Stereotyping and Anti-Discrimination Laws”…

  12. eagle eye

    Regarding release of the letter, once it’s released to one person, it has to be released to anyone else who requests it. Very good point that the quality of legal guidance may be very much lacking.

    Phil Coleman: It might be of interest to you and others to know that LA school board members are paid close to what they would make as teachers and principals. Many of them used to be teachers, then decided to run to be board members.
    The job of being an LA board member is considered full time work. In addition to salary, they receive life, health, disability, and legal insurance, and use of a leased car of their choice (within reason) to visit the many different school sites.

  13. PhilColeman


    In the Thursday last meeting of the School Board, Board Member Allen made this unequivocal declarative remark, and said it twice. She called upon a male staff member (not sure who) for verification. He affirmed that is was, indeed, “the law.”

    When it comes to legislating education in this State, the State Legislature enact laws governing that function. Such laws are codified in a voluminous publication called the Education Code.

    I made a search of the CA Education Code to substantiate Thursday’s pronouncement that local school boards must give final approval to every school hire. Section 4000 speaks extensively on the need for school districts to hire good qualified people, but I found nothing that supported the remarks and repeated Thursday night.

    Possibly there is an undiscovered law that applies. Perhaps the School Board Counsel, the HR Director, or the Superintendent can reveal this statutory requirement.

    The DJUSD does have policy language that says the Board shall approve all its hires. Refer to: It made me wonder why this policy was created when “the law” already gave them that authority.

    This policy is on hires was created by the DJUSD Board. Policy is not law, unless it copies a law. Policy is inferior to any law. Policy is not enforceable in any court of law or police action. The Board can amend or repeal any policy it makes by majority vote. Absent any showing of relevant law, the Board chooses to approve all hires because it want to, not because it has to.

    1. Michelle Millet

      This is basically the same thing I found when searching for clarification on this issue. I could not find it stated anywhere that a district is required by law to approve hires.

  14. wdf1

    Phil Coleman: There is plenty of California State Ed Code available on all this, but here is one excerpt that seems to be relevant to your question.

    California State Ed Code 35161

    35161. The governing board of any school district may execute any
    powers delegated by law to it or to the district of which it is the
    governing board, and shall discharge any duty imposed by law upon it
    or upon the district of which it is the governing board, and may
    delegate to an officer or employee of the district any of those
    powers or duties. The governing board, however, retains ultimate
    responsibility over the performance of those powers or duties so

    1. PhilColeman

      The operative word is “may.” Nothing in this Section speaks to school hiring approval process, or, more importantly, to mandate the Board to give final approval for hires (or re-hires).

      Thanks for your “another pair of eyes” looking for the authority being claimed.

  15. iPad Guy

    So, the daily Vanguard Lynching Party against Nancy Peterson rolls on. The Vanguard renews its demand that she resign because she “put herself into a fray” by pulling the VSA item from the February 2013 consent calendar and voted not to overturn the administration and made seriously derogatory comments about a staff member in July 2013.

    Although she’s accused of committing no additional offensive acts as a school board member since July 2013, it’s time that she resign. Why?

    As I remember the “You Make the Call” commercials, the viewer was shown a play and was asked to apply established rules of the game. The challenge was not to make up one’s own rules or use emotions and support for one team to guide the call.

    What if we’d try to apply the rules to the plays:

    Play #1 (Consent Item Pulled): Followed rules for consent item discussion.

    Play #2 (Vote to Overturn Administration): Followed rules for voting. Didn’t follow rules (at least unwritten rules) about speaking in public about staff performance.

    Play #3 (Daughter’s Decision to Return): Followed rules. This is the most bogus, made-up “rule” The Vanguard tries to apply. The tortured language makes that apparent: “The mother (or “the father” or “the family”) sent the daughter back….” The faulty assumptions involve a complete lack of 17-year-old parenting awareness. The sexist implications are fascinating, as well.

    Play #4 (Coach Cuts Player): Followed rules or did not follow rules. No way to tell at this point since none of us has seen the investigation evidence. We have only the carefully worded letter vs. unnamed “others'” suggestions that the Coach used only legitimate criteria.

    Play #5 (Dr. Peterson Files Complaint): Followed rules, including participation in resolution meeting with all parties. There is no question that his complaint was “legitimate,” or lawful. It also was sustained by the district’s investigation. Claiming he didn’t have a right to file it because his wife is on the board and because it “triggered an administrative response that become conflicted and convoluted” is both incorrect and misdirects blame for the district’s failings.

    Play #6 (District Spends $22,000 Investigating): Followed rules. David “gets that,” yet contends that “the Petersons, as custodians of the district finances” even could have known that the administration would spend $22,000 on the complaint. Neither Coach Crawford nor Dr. Peterson (even by Vanguard weird “extension” theories, a school board member) can be blamed for the way the administration handled a legitimate complaint.

    Play #7 (District Delays Non-renewal Notification): Followed rules. As David notes, this alleged delay is most baffling and is the one move that “really added rule to the fire.”

    Play #8 (Dr. Peterson Gives Letter to Enterprise): Legal, as David notes. Still, he claims that “the district” labeled the letter a “private personnel document”–yet, to date, he has shown no evidence that anyone from the district has been so quoted. Furthermore, any call of privacy about a letter to a parent would be for the parent’s and student’s privacy.

    It was also legal for Coach Crawford talk to The Enterprise (as well as provide copies of her own evaluations, “confidential personnel documents”). In fact, she was the one who first leaked to The Enterprise in order to get her side out, resulting in Cris Saur’s February 11 story–which, of course, “inflamed the situation.”

    Play #9 (Dr. Peterson Speaks): Followed rules, although there was some mixup in when the president called his turn to speak. Any sentence that includes “Mr. Peterson does not necessarily have the right….” signals some gigantic stretch is underway. He either does or he doesn’t–and, of course, he does.

    Your play-by-play scenario attempts to put the blame for a dozen people’s actions on Nancy Peterson when she wasn’t even in the game for seven of your nine plays.

    Thanks for the opportunity to play “You Make the Call.”

    “Those two key decisions (February-July 2013 and allowing her daughter to return to play) caused this entire chain of events. That part is almost completely on Nancy Peterson.”

    Haven’t you left out one newer key decision, in fact, the one that caused the current issue: Coach Crawford allegedly retaliated against Nancy Peterson by unfairly cutting her daughter from the volleyball team? Wouldn’t that one be completely on Julie Crawford?

    1. hpierce

      It would appear that you believe all of the Peterson parents, acted righteously, and the coach is the one guilty of a “foul”…. or have I missed something?

      1. iPad Guy

        I don’t claim to know who “acted righteously.” But, I’ll try to clarify what you might have missed.

        I believe that Nancy Peterson committed a yellow card foul when she publicly accused Coach Crawford of wrongdoing in July 2013. I decided this last year and base it on Vanguard and Enterprise coverage at the time.

        I believe that Julie Crawford committed a red card foul when she cut the player for what the expensive investigation and the district administration later determined was retaliation, a clear violation of established policy.

        My concern is that so many Vanguardians watching the game are trying to excuse the second, more serious foul and blame it on the person who committed the first one.

        Each of the two bear responsibility for their own acts.

  16. SouthofDavis

    iPad Guy wrote:

    > David notes. Still, he claims that “the district” labeled the letter a
    > “private personnel document”–yet, to date, he has shown no evidence
    > that anyone from the district has been so quoted.

    If you go to the URL below and hit pause at 3:08 you can see that the actual 12/17/13 letter from the district Rob Peterson is passing around is clearly labeled “Confidential” (and you can read most of it including Rob & Nancy’s daughters name that Rob claims he was trying to keep out of the press)…

    1. iPad Guy

      David writes: “…leaking a private personnel document to the press” and that “the district…declined to comment on it, on the basis that it was a private personnel document.”

      When asked for the source of this claim the first time the phrase was used, David did not provide any reference for where anyone from the district is so quoted. Yet, here the term “private personnel document” shows up again.

      Why would the district be permitted to give a “private personnel document” to an outside person?

      My guess is that the letter is not a “personnel document” at all, but a required report to a complainant (marked “confidential” for district internal purposes since the district has no power to impose such a restriction on a parent).

      To suggest that the recipient has no right to let anyone else see such a letter once it’s been sent to him seems like nonsense. But, I’d welcome some authoritative contrary view.

      1. Michelle Millet

        From the districts COMPLAINT PROCESS AND PROCEDURES form:

        If you want to appeal the decision by the district administrator, please submit a copy of the completed Complaint Form and the district administrator’s response to the Superintendent. Please include a brief letter indicating the specifics in the response from the district administrator that were not satisfactory to you. The Superintendent will conduct a “Findings of Facts” and will send you a written statement of the “Administrative Response/Actions” within thirty (30) working days after receiving the appeal.

        I’m guessing the letter Peterson shared with Enterprise is the “Finding of Facts” he received? If this is true I’m guessing he is free to share it with whom ever he wishes. Wether it was appropriate for him to do so is another story.

    1. iPad Guy

      Are you talking about the letter that was sent to Dr. Peterson? On what authority do you think the district would be allowed to release a letter to a parent about a student and a coach?

  17. Dave Hart

    I don’t agree that Julie Crawford’s reputation is damaged by this scandal though my mind could be changed if I read the entire report and knew the relationship of Sperry to the DJUSD counsel. Retaliation implies small minded vindictiveness. Would it be improper for the young Miss Peterson to be cut because her mother and/or father are constantly sniping at the coach and that kind of thing spills over into the attitude of the young Miss Peterson? I think coaching is pretty challenging at the high school level and that kind of distraction can make or break a team’s ability to focus and play well as a team. It could be construed as retaliation, but it could also be viewed as eliminating bad chemistry.

    The fact is, we don’t know. The only people that can enlighten us can’t or won’t speak. But, I do feel that the elder Petersons have shown extremely bad judgment and that is why I tend to feel that Julie Crawford has been maligned.

    Of course, all of this is coming from a guy (me) that questions why we spend any school district funds on sports at all. This is a good case in point for eliminating all sports and redirect our resources to the classroom. The kids that are serious about sports will find the opportunity outside the school district. Guess that comment will make me real popular.

    1. Leigh Whitmire Choate

      I agree with you Dave about most of what you say, however……

      The problem with club sports is that they are typically only available to affluent families and are more competitive than most high school teams. Teams are picked from a much larger pool of athletes, which can lower the chance of getting on a team.

      Providing sports through schools allows students to try out for teams and potentially play for teams when they could not otherwise afford to do so. It becomes an equitable opportunity financially that club sports doesn’t often offer. It also offers the sense of school pride and school spirit that club sports can’t.

      1. wdf1

        I agree with you on the benefits of athletics. We’re not really a big sports family, but I see how it works that way for many other students.

        Some of the subtext that I hear in this particular issue in the argument over volleyball is over whether school athletics should be challenging and competitive (and possibly more selective) or should it be more broadly accessible (get more students to play). I think everyone would say that it should be some combination, but there would be finer disagreements over how competitive/selective vs. how accessible.

        One way for everyone to have their way philosophically is to expand the program. Have a varsity team, have a JV team, but then have even a second varsity team, or maybe some kind of freshman, sophomore, junior/senior sequence. There would be plenty of possibilities.

        But I don’t think that’s going to happen for volleyball for a few years. I think this controversy will tend to turn off potential families from participating, maybe look instead for another sport or another activity until this blows over. As long as students are involved in some things not traditionally academic, that is good, but limiting the available options because of this controversy isn’t good. I believe there is still a lot more pent up student demand and capacity to participate in the extracurricular system (athletics, performing arts, clubs, debate, journalism, etc.). Choices and accommodation are good.

        I guess my point is that I wonder if another school team could have been broken out, w/ another coach, that would have made everyone potentially happier.

    2. Tia Will

      Speaking only from the point of view of health, I do not think it a good idea to eliminate sports from the high school curriculum. The rate of overweight and obesity in our teen population is alarming both nationwide and in our own community leading to a lifetime increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver and kidney failure. I would support that funds be used to support increased physical activity for all students rather than those just making a competitive team. However, I would not support funds being pulled from physical activity to support more sedentary activities which already consume too much of the students time.

  18. Dave Hart

    The reason this Volleyball Gate (VG) scandal irritates me so much is because of the effect is has on support for adequate financing for our public school system. This kind of corruption hurts us all and it is no accident that the central problem orbits around a sports team. Is it true that kids who do very well on winning sports teams in high school can get sizable sports “scholarships” at many four-year universities. It is the pervasive effect of the money in sports that has a rotting effect even at the high school level.

    I appreciate the value to individuals of participation in sports activities. I like watching high-performing athletes. But at what cost do we as a society, here in Davis or anywhere else, make sports so important that it over-shadows a legitimate love for athletics or concern for the integrity of our school system? It seems to me that when a public entity like a school district offers an athletics program that is “competitive”, it has to play by the same corrosive rules that serve the successively higher levels of competition, winning, etc., that dictate excluding all but the most adept and talented (regardless of economic status) which, in turn, fuels the higher money stakes that tempts parents to literally go crazy to make sure their kid gets an ever bigger slice of the scholarship money pie. Wealthier parents know how to work that system better than poor parents.

    I notice that there is a strategic planning effort underway for the DJUSD ( and if this is a new activity, I applaud it as long overdue. Up to now, nobody has referred to the DJUSD mission statement for its Athletic Program. A clear mission statement with policies that back it up might prevent such atrocities as we’ve lately witnessed. Let’s hope that is where this is headed.

    Of course, DJUSD might end up with a mission statement that says something like: “To build athletic programs that select and encourage only the very best athletes and parental support structures that are capable of winning at any price.” At least that would be honest. Then, I could actually vote no on the next school tax measure with a clear conscience.

  19. wdf1

    Vanguard: “According to published accounts, the district completed their investigation in November. Julie Crawford, despite the results, was led to believe she would be the coach.”

    Where are (is) those published accounts indicating a November completion to the investigation?

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