Sunday Commentary II: The Phrase We Want is ‘Abuse of Power’

Peterson-Nancy
School Board Member Nancy Peterson

Mistakes Were Made by Most Involved, However Nancy Peterson Instigated This Incident

Many thanks goes out to the work of Michelle Millet, who yesterday put together a timeline of verified events in the controversy surrounding Davis High Volleyball Coach Julie Crawford and school board member Nancy Peterson.   Ms. Millet was careful to stick to what was part of the official record and therefore, quite naturally, there are unanswered questions that arise.

Personnel matters are naturally difficult to assess because so much of the most critical information is hidden from the public’s eye.  In our view, selective leaks to the press are inappropriate and self-serving.  The fact that these leaks came from the father of the student who was cut from the team, who just happens to be married to a school board member, is troubling.

The fact that the district could not comment on the contents of the letter suggests that they are in fact a private personnel record – which leads us to question of whether the Enterprise should have published it at all to begin with, particularly in light of the relatively ambiguous nature in which an outside investigator somehow made conclusions, using a low standard of “more likely than not” and then further obscuring it by watering it down to “was influenced, at least in part.”

That a parent might want to leak the letter to the press is understandable, but when that parent is married to a school board member and that letter is, in fact, a private personnel document, someone has to be using better judgment.

It is the judgment of Nancy Peterson and, by extension, her board that we have to question from the start.  It was Nancy Peterson who pulled the coach’s VSA from the consent calendar so that her contract could be discussed and voted on separately in February 2013.

It was Matt Best, who heads HR for the district, who made the decision in June not to submit the VSA to the board.  Three weeks later, the school board 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.

In her dissent, Peterson cited a passage from the school district’s handbook for coaches regarding “integrity,” and added, “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.”

And yet, despite having uttered those words, she had her daughter back on the team this past fall.  Does that seem a little odd to anyone else?

Back to the main point here: twice Nancy Peterson was involved in a vote involving her children’s coach.  It was not until this week that Ms. Peterson finally recused herself from participating in the discussion.

One of the striking things here is that, in all of this discussion, the only person who seems to have any real objection to Coach Crawford is Nancy Peterson.  No other parent – at least that I have seen or heard from – has come forward to express concern about Coach Crawford and most have come forward with anger and frustration wondering why this has now happened twice.

Why is that?  Last July we published Vanguard Commentary: Nancy Peterson Owes Community an Explanation – it seems to me that she still does owe the community an explanation, and she has put the community through turmoil twice.

But she is not the only one that owes the community an explanation.  Last June, it was Davis High Athletic Director Dennis Foster who 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 claimed he could not comment on a reason, citing that it was “a confidential personnel matter.”

This year, we have the complaint that occurred in November, but Ms. Crawford said that up until last week she believed that she would be coach.  So why the last second decision?  Who made the call?

Also, the school board overruled the Athletic Director and the HR Director last summer and, based on some of their comments, they seem to want to perhaps overrule them again.

This morning we get the story that Ron Duer and Jordan Friend have taken over the team on an interim basis.  But Rob Cole was apparently told by district administrators that he would be the interim coach and then the district changed its mind.

According to one source that asked to be anonymous, the Vanguard learned that Mr. Cole has close ties to Nancy Peterson and coached her kids in Sacramento.  Did that play a role in the district’s change of mind or were they merely just as sloppy and inept in handling the interim situation as they were in handling the personnel standing of Julie Crawford?

One of the interesting quotes in today’s article is from Mr. Duer who said, “Jordan Friend and I are co-interim coaches until Julie gets her job back.”  That suggests that he clearly believes that Ms. Crawford should and will get her job back.

That leads us to the even broader question – how is it that the school board has allowed this to happen twice in the last year?

While the specifics of these situations fall into the realm of personnel matters, the broader issues of process are matters of public record and knowledge.

So let us start with the basics.  Under California law, generally speaking, public officials are only precluded from acting when they have a direct financial interest in the matter.

But Nancy Peterson’s action constitutes an abuse of power and authority.  She used her position on the school board to instigate this entire incident – her pulling the item off consent, her dissenting vote in July 2013, her husband’s complaint, and her husband’s leak to the press are what caused this entire thing to unfold and it all could have been avoided.

The Enterprise argues today that when adults behave badly, it is children that suffer.  Absolutely true, but even with shades of gray, the power asymmetry here suggests that the party that bears the brunt of the responsibility is the Petersons.  Whether Ms. Crawford acted properly cutting the younger Peterson from the team – we have not enough information to judge.

The district, as we suggested on Thursday, is in the position to fix this problem. The district had to re-write its conflict of interest policy when a high level Associate Superintendent used the business office to start up his own business using district personnel to assist him.

The district now must set a similar high bar for school board members’ actions involving personnel that work with their kids.

The funny thing is, I had this discussion with Gina Daleiden last summer and no one fixed the problem.  Yes, we now have Ms. Peterson recused, but the horses are already out of the barn.

That leads us to the next question, which is how the administration handles Variable Service Agreements.  As we noted above, clearly the Athletic Director and HR Director bear responsibility here.  They were overruled once by the board with only Nancy Peterson dissenting and they were, at best, slow to act on the investigation this time around and may yet get overruled a second time.

Is the problem with the individuals in charge or is it with the process?  The board needs to figure that out.

Next, we have the board itself.  If this were just one or two issues, then maybe they would get a pass, but we have seen controversy surrounding multiple coaches and other prominent officials in the district.  Had the controversy merely emerged last summer, then that’s one thing.  That this reoccurs with the exact same players suggests that the board failed to act properly.

That leads us back to Nancy Peterson.  There are people who clearly want to see her resign.  There are people who clearly would like to see her get recalled.  As I said before, whether the coach acted appropriately or inappropriately in cutting her daughter – in the watered-down words of the investigator, “influenced in part” by her personal feelings towards Ms. Peterson, Nancy Peterson’s actions in the last year have put her concerns about her kids over that of the welfare of the students and employees of this district.

That is an abuse of power.  If she had any integrity left she would resign, if the board had any backbone they would vote to censure her.  I assume neither will happen.  That unfortunately puts it in the hands of the residents of this community to act.

—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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106 Comments

  1. growth issue

    “That is an abuse of power. If she had any integrity left she would resign, if the board had any backbone they would vote to censure her. I assume neither will happen. That unfortunately puts it in the hands of the residents of this community to act.”

    Fully agree. This is a story that just keeps on giving and I think it still has a long way to go if anyone can truly get to the bottom of it. “60 Minutes” material.

  2. growth issue

    From “Our View” in the Enterprise this morning:

    “Dr. Rob Peterson, Nancy’s husband, persuaded school district administrators to listen and investigate, and they found that Crawford indeed had retaliated against Nancy by leaving her daughter off the team roster.”

    So now it’s somehow gone from “more likely than not” and “was influenced, at least in part” to “indeed”.
    So has the Enterprise come up with more evidence or is this just shoddy reporting, in the mean time Ms. Crawford is getting further defamed.

    1. iPad Guy

      That is an odd leap (from the reporter’s story to today’s editorial) in the level of proof implied. My guess is that there’s no new evidence–indeed, just sloppy writing.

      I do think the Enterprise editorial is based on much more thorough reporting, however. And, it hits on the systemic failures as well as poor judgments of so many of the participants.

      The Vanguard started looking into this with a point of view already established and announced. The Enterprise advanced the story as it got more information, coming to its current conclusion after looking at several sides and extensive reader reaction.

      The Vanguard operates differently and ends up in a different place (often not very far from where it started).

      When our favorite publication begins covering a story by announcing its conclusion, refuses to accept the legitimacy of other reporting and keeps beating the drums on one side, The Vanguard’s commentary ends up like today’s laundry-list brief of questionable assertions.

      Regardless of how this all turns out–and it cannot turn out well, can it?–I’ll forever wonder just what possessed this coach to dump the only returning senior player just weeks after getting publicly and viscously criticized by her mother.

      Was it really retaliation, who will ever know? But, it was stupid. Although David sees that truth as “proof” that the coach wasn’t retaliating, it’s still just dumb. What kind of thought process contributes such lack of foresight? Something clouded her judgment as she weighed her options?

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        Coach Crawford was in a no-win situation with a lesser player who, according to the former coach who posted here on The Vanguard, didn’t respect the authority of the coach and was not a team player. Then add in an out-of-control Mom / Board member, and talented, younger, coachable players. And said Mom / Board member wanted to coach on the team! Amazing.

      2. David Greenwald

        ” Although David sees that truth as “proof” that the coach wasn’t retaliating”

        You’ve misinterpreted quite a few of my comments and in this case, I don’t see the truth as “proof” that the coach wasn’t retaliating. Not in the least. People do stupid things all of the time that are on the surface illogical. What I find troubling is the dissembling, low burden evidence of guilt that was sat on for two months and unaddressed until the last possible moment. Not of that proves innocence or guilt but builds on the questions that have arisen.

        1. iPad Guy

          “It might be easy enough to determine if the cut was warranted, but what if Ms. Peterson had become a detriment to her team? Moreover, it would seem awfully dumb to get your job back and then vindictively cut your adversary’s child from the team. She had to know that any decision she made with regard to a cut would have scrutiny and perhaps the full resources of the district brought to bear on her.”

          I’m not sure how this comment can be interpreted as anything but an effort to help make a case that Coach Crawford would not and/or did not do what the investigation suggests that she did.

          Who knows whether the investigation is as limited in its “proof” and conclusions as what is listed in the letter to the parent? One would presume that most of such an investigation would be confidential, and I wonder how even the low level of “proof” described in The Enterprise showed up in the letter a parent.

          I’d be glad to clarify my interpretations if you’ll point out the others you feel are misinterpretations. Some just might be differences in opinion. Or maybe you’re just misinterpreting my interpretations.

          I agree with your comments about the low level of case that was made in the letter, that the decision to rehire or not shouldn’t have taken so long and that the coach should have been notified as soon a timely decision had been made.

          We probably are in full agreement that the general incompetence displayed by the administration and the school board is astounding. The latest decisions to contract with a new volleyball coach and then to pull back hours later take things to a whole new level, as they say.

          1. David Greenwald

            “I’m not sure how this comment can be interpreted as anything but an effort to help make a case that Coach Crawford would not and/or did not do what the investigation suggests that she did.”

            How about why she might not have done what the investigation suggests. Unless I read the report, I’m operating in the dark because I don’t know what evidence they have that her actions might have been in part influenced…

            On a broader point, I was told that the school board has yet to read the full report. That is because they had to accept the approval first and will apparently be allowed to read it only in the district offices.

          2. David Greenwald

            Sorry typo on my part – meant to say that they have to agree to hear the appeal (not approval) before reading the report. More on this in tomorrow’s story (hopefully).

  3. Phil Coleman

    Let’s step away from this latest report on the actions, and reversal of actions, by folks in the Davis School District. It’s absolutely mind boggling. “Alice in Wonderland,” was a more credible story, despite their similarities in plot.

    Memo to District: The solution to your self-induced dilemma is simple and you don’t have to look far for a model, several hundred models actually. Look at was municipalities do with respect to personnel matters.

    City councils are empowered to hire and fire one person, the city manager. The city manager is directed to run the store, including ALL matters involving personnel. If the city manager does not do that job well, fire him/her get somebody else that can do the job.

    To be sure, city councilpersons are approached by employees and hear complaints on who gets to drive public works trucks, an employee in Parks received favoritism in a vacation selection, or lateral transfer of somebody in the Police Department was discrimatory. City councilpersons will nod sympathetically, say, “I feel your pain,” then say, “Go talk to the City Manager or your union rep, I have no say in such things.”

    No city council, or board of supervisors for that matter, has employment contracts of lower level employees on their consent calender for ultimate approval. They entrust that responsibility to the administration they chose to do that job.

    Look up “personnel issues” and you find the definition, “Snakes nest!” Ask any administrator what’s his/her’s biggest ongoing headache and the answer will encompass promotions, transfers, vacation and overtime policies, selection for specialized training, grievances–it just goes on and on. At the risk of appearing especially cynical, in public government everybody’s a self-proclaimed victim.

    Board members, stay away from the snakes nest, that’s what you pay the Superintendent to suffer through. You should never ever be involved in who is going to be the next golf coach or head cheerleader, if for no other reason than the principal and athletic director have far more experience and information to make that decision than you.

    Employees in any work environment have legitimate victims (and some illegitimate ones, too). Thanks to progressive legislation, community watchdogs, severe administrative sanctions, union intervention, judicial decrees, there are an abundance of options already availble to the wronged employee. If you keep getting complaints, talk to the Superintendent. If you don’t like the answers, get a new Superintendent, the ONE employee you should be authorized to hire and fire.

    1. Michelle Millet

      If you keep getting complaints, talk to the Superintendent. If you don’t like the answers, get a new Superintendent, the ONE employee you should be authorized to hire and fire.

      I agree, I think. I’m guessing someone can make a legitimate argument as to why the school members should have say in personal decisions, but at the moment I can’t think of one.

      1. iPad Guy

        There needs to be some kind of appeal process to protect employees and, maybe, some there’s some mandate for contract approvals. But, this past year sure reveals the failures build into the present system.

  4. iPad Guy

    “In our view, selective leaks to the press are inappropriate and self-serving.”

    When did this epiphany hit you? I hope it doesn’t mean that The Vanguard will be going out of business anytime soon. Please reconsider before it’s too late.

    I’m sure you know that both the coach and the doctor provided self-serving “selective leaks” to The Enterprise (also called “interviews” in the news biz.)

  5. iPad Guy

    “The fact that the district could not comment on the contents of the letter suggests that they are in fact a private personnel record….”

    Did you ever find that anyone said that the district could not comment on the letter?

      1. iPad Guy

        I was unable to find it reported in either place–can you point out to your report or note how you found out that The Enterprise was “specifically told” that the letter couldn’t be discussed?

        The only thing I could find was “carefully worded statements” that avoided comments about anything related to the case. That kind of generalized and appropriate “no comment,” of course, does nothing to support your claim that “are in fact a private personnel record….”

  6. DT Businessman

    Abuse of power is only one of the 3 ethical violations at the board level. The other two are a flagrant conflict of interest and nepotism.

    This is a clear case of a conflict of interest, not in the narrow financial sense, but in the broader sense of whether a board member’s personal interest are at odds with the board members duty to the organization. The conflict has been ongoing for at least a year and there is no way at this late date to stick that genie back in the bottle. To many irreversible actions have already taken place

    As for nepotism, I’ll let the following definition speak for itself:

    “The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.”

    Given the 3 glaring ethical violations, the fact that the board didn’t forcefully intervene right from the get go is very difficult to understand.

    -Michael Bisch

    1. Michelle Millet

      Given the 3 glaring ethical violations, the fact that the board didn’t forcefully intervene right from the get go is very difficult to understand.

      Agree

    2. iPad Guy

      “As for nepotism, I’ll let the following definition speak for itself:

      ‘The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs’.”

      I agree with most of your comment, but the nepotism definition doesn’t speak for itself. What are you getting at? Who gave whom jobs?

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        One reader wrote that Nancy Peterson has been angling for a job as assistant volleyball coach for years, and approached two coaches about hiring herself, and firing an assistant coach. (Neither coach followed her suggestions.) Peterson also may have inserted the six-hour temporary volleyball coach into the equation; he happens to coach another member of her family.

      2. DT Businessman

        IPad Guy, the definition does speak for itself if you read it in its entirety. You chose to focus only on the last part following “especially”. There are many ways to “favor” a relative. Securing them a spot on a team is certainly one of them. Having a coach fired to further a relative’s sports career is another. Based on my decades long experience in competitive sports, I can assure you the sporting world is rife with nepotism on many levels.

        -Michael Bisch

        1. iPad Guy

          Thanks for explaining. I understand your point, but you’re the first one to even suggest that the school board member is “having a coach fired to further a relative’s sports career.”

          Of course, that’s cannot be possible unless you have some inside information that the student is failing her senior year and will be back again next year to join the team with a new coach.

  7. iPad Guy

    “And yet despite having uttered those words, she had her daughter back on the team this past fall. Does that seem a little odd to anyone else? Back to the main point here….”

    Not at all odd. Are you suggesting that she could have “had her daughter” try out for the other DHS girls volleyball team?

    Of course, Ms. Peterson (pictured above under the “ABUSE OF POWER” cuteness banner”) probably hadn’t anticipated that her daughter would be cut in a “BREACH OF ETHICS” move. Looking back, as we all are, she probably wouldn’t have “had her daughter back on the team” only be dumped from the team.

    There are way too many rambling, questionable points being offered up here. As you say, let’s get “back to the main point here….”–which is what, that “mistakes were made by most involved.” If so, I’m with you 100%

  8. Michelle Millet

    Not at all odd. Are you suggesting that she could have “had her daughter” try out for the other DHS girls volleyball team?

    If Peterson was willing to use her power as a school board member to remove a coach then she should have really legitimate reasons for doing so. If her reasons were that legitimate then I think it is fair to ask why she was willing to let her daughter play for such a coach.

    If I was a school board member, the only time I would interfere with the hiring of coach is if what she was doing was bad enough that I wouldn’t want my kids exposed to it, even if it was the only way they could play volleyball for their high school team.

    1. iPad Guy

      I don’t understand how the daughter’s decision to play somehow brings into question whether the school board member was somehow faking her displeasure with the coach.

      What do you suggest the player was being exposed to? A senior’s decision to stay on a high school team should be her own call, don’t you think? It’s obvious why she tried to play: she wanted to play regardless of the conflict between her mother and her coach. Give her credit for trying.

      Our son was on a youth baseball team whose coach was a mess, in most parents’ and players’ opinions. Every player stuck it out until the end although they won only one game. Upon reflection, I take it as an admirable on the part of the kids. They wanted to play, and this was the only opportunity for them for the season.

      1. Michelle Millet

        I’m not suggesting Peterson was faking her displeasure. What I’m suggesting is, that if she continued to allow her daughter to play for Crawford, that her displeasure may not have based on actions that warranted her using her power as a school member to block the renewal of Crawford’s contract.

        It should take a lot more then a school board members “displeasure” for them to get involved in the way Peterson did.

        1. iPad Guy

          Sorry that I missed your point. And, I guess I’m not being clear on mine.

          Displeasure or violent anger, how does the fact that she let her daughter continue on the team until she was cut have anything to do with whether it was appropriate for the school board member get involved in the hiring decision?

          I can’t imagine that the daughter’s desire to continue was a decision of the mother. After all, she’s a senior who has competed for, and on, the team for years.

          It must have been a big surprise that she no longer was welcome to play with her team. This obviously led to Dr. Peterson’s complaint and pretty much was completely foreseeable by the coach and the administration.

          I don’t think the school board member should have gotten involved in the first place. But it has nothing to do with how upset she “should” be to justify her speaking out.

        2. David Greenwald

          Just had a long discussion with someone familiar with the situation and I think one key point here is that Peterson had two roles – she had her role as a parent and her role as a board member. She had to figure out which role she needed to emphasize. By deciding to vote and make the strong statement against the coach, she decided in effect to emphasize her role as a SB member over that as a parent. According to that line of thinking, she could not then do the parent thing and send her child back to the team. She needed to pull her child out of that situation. By making the strong statement and sending her daughter, she put everyone into a bad situation – and that is where the real conflict started to occur.

          We don’t have enough information at this time in the public that she was involved in conflicts before that point, but certainly the point when she made the strong statement, she couldn’t put her daughter back on the team.

          1. iPad Guy

            So far, everyone pretty much agrees that Ms. Peterson make a big mistake almost a year ago in arguing that the coach shouldn’t be rehired.

            The line of thinking you got from some secret opinionator is not at all convincing. By what rule did she “need to pull her child out” of Davis High School sports?

            Who says, “she couldn’t put her daughter back on the team”? This, of course, is an inaccurate characterization. She had no power to put her daughter on the team.

            The student decided to return to the team. No one put her back on the team; the coach cut her from the team.

            Nothing wrong with looking back to where “the real conflict started to occur.” However, you should not ignore where the current, real, real conflict started to occur–when the coach cut the player from the squad.

            There is absolutely no reason to penalize the student for the actions in the school board.

            A quality operation would have had everyone shaking hands an moving on for the sake of the students.

          2. hpierce

            no s87t sherlock… my sense is that we should let this rest until the appeal plays out… at least for the minor involved.

    2. Tia Will

      “If Peterson was willing to use her power as a school board member to remove a coach then she should have really legitimate reasons for doing so. If her reasons were that legitimate then I think it is fair to ask why she was willing to let her daughter play for such a coach.”

      In a world in which only the ethics of a situation matters, I would agree with you. Life can be more complicated.
      My son was a varsity goalie on a team at DHS. The coach at the time exhibited what i considered abusive behaviors such as belittling his players publicly and swearing at them which I would have preferred my son not be exposed to. . I had many conversations with my son about whether or not he wanted to quit the team and whether or not I should place a formal complaint against the coach. He remained steadfast about remaining on the team, and did not want me to interfere since he was concerned about the very real possibility of retaliation since I had already expressed my concerns to the coach personally. He played out that season but opted not to play the next year. The coach was removed due to the amount of patient complaints. Sometimes, a parent will choose to use bad adult behavior as a teaching point on how not to behave, and allow their child to participate if they have a strong desire to continue in their sport and no real alternatives.

      Clearly I am not saying this is the case with Nancy Petersen whose behavior I find baffling. Just presenting another point of view on parental decision making.

      1. Ingrid Salim

        Well-said, Tia.

        There is not necessarily a contradiction in Nancy Peterson’s ‘allowing’ her senior daughter to play Volleyball. Just a complicated response confused by different roles.

        As others, I’m more intrigued with the process question within DJUSD, which has come up for a number of employees over the last couple of years: namely, what, exactly, ARE grounds for dismissal for a coach, principal, administrator? Who is responsible for evaluating these non-union employees? Are they provided clear evaluations with specifics and time to improve? On what basis can/does the Board overturn them, and why would they do so when they’re own district personnel have already made a decision?

        I don’t know whether Ms. Crawford actually retaliated in this case, in response to ongoing perceived harassment, not just from a parent, but a Board member. But it seems that there has been controversy over her status as coach for quite a while now, all of it stemming from the Peterson family, and indeed, there has been pressure to fire her for quite a while, albeit not for any specifically defined lack of expertise (nor, I would point out, has Ms. Crawford been maligned in her tenure as a full-time physical education instructor at DHS).

        I agree with earlier statements that in this kind of organization, specific supervisors need to have the authority to hire and fire, and the Board should not see its role as undermining that authority, as it so routinely does. Even in this case, where there is now an appeal granted, that comes at the expense of overturning the Athletic Director’s call, as well as that of HR, which is deeply problematic.

        The process is very murky, and that lack of a clear process does not inspire confidence that fairness and transparency are values we hold here.

        1. Michelle Millet

          On what basis can/does the Board overturn them, and why would they do so when they’re own district personnel have already made a decision?

          This is a very good question.

          Does the school board need a procedural reason to not approve a VSA or do these non-union employees serve at the will of board.

        2. iPad Guy

          Good questions about procedures, Ingrid and Michelle. Looking from outside, it seems a massive mess. How the newest replacement coach hiring and firing could have have happened days before an appeal hearing for Coach Crawford boggles the mind.

          My general view is that when people keep getting criticized for what they’ve done, it’s good to take a close look at the organizational process involved. This should be the first matter of business after the board wraps up the current situation.

          1. TrueBlueDevil

            How about the idea that when you have a highly educated individual with a lot of time, money, position and motivation, they’ll find a way to gum up the works come hell or high water.

  9. SODA

    Something that has not been mentioned, but believe I heard early on (and please correct me quickly if I am wrong) is that Dr Peterson (husband) is the physician for the team? If true this puts another layer on the stew.

    1. iPad Guy

      Dr. Peterson has been identified as a volunteer (?) sports team (which teams?) doctor, and this certainly adds to the complications. Folks have suggested that he has some additional responsibility for maintaining confidentiality because of his district association.

    2. growth issue

      Soda, from the Enterprise 2/13 article “Retaliation may be at root of coach’s dismissal”

      “The investigation was triggered by a Sept. 3 complaint filed by longtime Blue Devil volunteer sports doctor Rob Peterson”

    3. wdf1

      SODA: Dr Peterson (husband) is the physician for the team

      When there is barely enough money to pay coaches a stipend, I understand that a team physician or nurse is a volunteer position.

        1. iPad Guy

          You’re correct about the volunteer laudatoriness and conflict perceptions involved, but this isn’t just coming into the pix, dear SODA. Apparently, you’re not as obsessed with reading about this train wreck as some of the rest of us!

    1. iPad Guy

      Coach Crawford is the only target of an official complaint from a parent. Official investigation is required for the benefit of the system, the student and the employee.

      I’d fire the whole bunch of them, no more investigation needed!

      Oops. Well, some of them have tenure and union representation. And, some of them have set terms to complete as elected officials. Who does that leave?

      1. Michelle Millet

        Coach Crawford is the only target of an official complaint from a parent. Official investigation is required for the benefit of the system, the student and the employee.

        Good point.

  10. Michelle Millet

    To clarify, A lot of people have been ACCUSED of acting inappropriately. But it seems that only the accusations made against Crawford are being investigated.

  11. anonymous pundit

    The real issue is that Roberson is running a political rather than a professional organization. Ms. Peterson understands that, and has acted within that context to bring about changes she thinks are appropriate. To protect his job, Roberson conducted an “outside” investigation and passed the decision to the Board. Everyone is acting predictably within a dysfunctional system. It is the system that must change.

    The Crawford matter is just a symptom of the disease. How could any of these people think it appropriate for Sheila Allen to serve on the district’s facilities/property management committee while running for City Council?

    By the way, there is a perfectly sound rationale for objecting to someone serving as a coach while allowing your child to continue to play for that coach. Have you heard of AYSO?

    1. Davis Progressive

      the real issue is not that roberson is running a political organization, it’s that roberson is in over his head. he’s a nice guy, he means well, but he’s allowed this situation to get out of hand.

    2. SouthofDavis

      anonymous pundit wrote:

      > How could any of these people think it appropriate for Sheila Allen
      > to serve on the district’s facilities/property management committee
      > while running for City Council?

      Don’t forget that she also works for County Supervisor Jim Provenza (as do others on the School board)…

      We all know the easiest way to get campaign money is to be in a position to reward the people that give you the money after you are elected…

  12. Tia Will

    “The Crawford matter is just a symptom of the disease. How could any of these people think it appropriate for Sheila Allen to serve on the district’s facilities/property management committee while running for City Council?

    Do you also feel that it is inappropriate for Mayor Krovoza and Councilmember Wolk to run for assembly while serving on the Davis CC. I intend this question seriously, not as snark. I am wondering if you perceive a difference between the two and if so what that might be.

  13. TZ

    People should be accountable for their actions and wrong doings. Part of the reason this happened twice is because nobody was punished for the wrongdoing the first time:
    – The school district HR person should lose his job for this
    – The district superintendent should lose his job for this
    – Nancy Peterson should resign from the school board
    – The district’s legal counsel should be fired
    – The investigator/lawyer that the school district hired should never be hired again — “more likely than not” is inflammatory, unless they discovered hard evidence that Crawford retaliated against Peterson that the Enterprise withheld when summarizing the lawyer’s report
    – If Crawford has not done anything wrong, she should sue all the people above, including the Davis Enterprise, for trying to ruin her reputation and her career.

  14. TrueBlueDevil

    I’ve read most of the articles about this soap opera, and I still haven’t heard what Nancy Peterson alleges that Coach Crawford has done wrong prior to her daughter’s removal from the team. She had it in for her last year. Why? (When the football coach departed early, we heard rumors that the parents thought the kids practiced too hard, and too long. There were other minor grumblings.)

    What – specifically – did Nancy Peterson object to?

    We’ve yet to see how objective or biased the supposed “investigation” was. We know there was a selection committee.

    iPad Guy and a few other are going back and forth about why Nancy Peterson let her daughter go out for the team, given Peterson’s reservations. I think you’re missing the intended point. If Coach Crawford is really that objectionable, if her misbehavior (which is still undefined) is really that serious, WHY let your child play for her? It is clear that Coach knows volleyball very well, and her teams excel. I have not heard of other players (and parents) leaving the team in mass. The players have showed up to support the Coach, made signs, and seem to sincerely appreciate her efforts. Therefore, I conclude that Nancy Peterson has some minor grievance with coach, some superficial complaint, and won’t let it go. Maybe part of that is that she didn’t accept Peterson’s offer to be an assistant coach.

    On top of all this, it looks like Nancy Peterson recently tried to place a volleyball coach from Folsom onto the team who has worked primarily with players at lower levels, and whom she knows. Is she trying to plant a coach who she can control? We don’t even have to dig for this information. It’s right there, thanks to the Internet.

    And we have an evaluation letter that Dr. Peterson leaked to the press. Where did he get this? Common sense says his wife, or maybe the “investigative lawyer”? (Who paid for the lawyer? Who referred the lawyer?) The most simple answer is Nancy Peterson, and divulging public employee personnel records has to violate some kind of policy or law.

  15. hpierce

    David, and VG board. Respectfully suggest no more following this type of thread until the process (appeal, etc) has run its course.

    Am concerned about the children involved, and I say this, knowing that my “hands are stained” by my previous posts.

  16. Fremontia

    i get protecting and defending your kids but why does it always seem like its the doctors families who go absolutely nuts over their kids in this town wasting huge amounts of administrative time and money in defense of their children? Remember the kid with the shotgun in the truck, the dad was a doctor, the woman who forged the online petitions, a doctor, and now this.

    To the Peterson’s I would admonish Luke 4:23 “Physician heal thyself.” Then add the Hippocratic Oath, “First do no harm.”

    Even if the coach was wrong to cut the kid they couldn’t just let it go. How dare this teacher do this to us. Perhaps its because you are completely insufferable as is clearly demonstrated by the behavior of your family and your sense of your social status that makes me think the coach is a hero for standing up to such bullies and telling them to go to hell.

    1. hpierce

      No heroes here. Don’t like the thought of eternal damnation. Something about mountains and molehills. Look around in the world, and see how trivial this is. And I say that knowing I have let myself be drawn into the relatively trivial.

    2. SouthofDavis

      Fremontia wrote:

      > why does it always seem like its the doctors families who go absolutely
      > nuts over their kids in this town wasting huge amounts of administrative
      > time and money in defense of their children? It looks like BOTH Nancy
      > and her husband have PhDs:

      “She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Princeton University, a master’s degree in physical therapy from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yeshiva University”

      http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/schools-news/nancy-peterson-enters-school-board-contest/

      P.S. Let’s not forget that Clayton Garzon’s Dad was also a doctor…

  17. yellow

    iPad Guy keeps making the same argument that Julie Crawford made a “stupid” decision by cutting Emma Peterson from the team, here for example: “I’ll forever wonder just what possessed this coach to dump the only returning senior player just weeks after getting publicly and viscously criticized by her mother. Was it really retaliation, who will ever know? But, it was stupid. Although David sees that truth as “proof” that the coach wasn’t retaliating, it’s still just dumb. What kind of thought process contributes such lack of foresight? Something clouded her judgment as she weighed her options?”

    I can imagine a very simple explanation as to why Crawford made that decision and why it was likely a good one. Some of the commenters who had direct observation with the team imply that she was openly insubordinate to her coach and that in turn was toxic to the team dynamic. That isn’t surprising at all considering her parents’ history with Crawford and how it in turn likely influenced her. Crawford probably decided it was the best decision to make in order to prevent the downfall of team morale, and she knew that any backlash would eventually allow the truth to surface. That’s exactly what’s happening now, and despite the turmoil Crawford can rest assured that she did the right thing. In a short time Crawford will be returned to her position with apologies from the district administration, Nancy Peterson will lose all credibility with the voters, and a number of motivated individuals will work to clean up the mess that is the current school board and superintendent (should I bring up the question now of why are we paying his night school tuition?).

    For those who want to reply that I should be ashamed for mentioning the daughter, send it to Dr. Rob instead.

    And Fremontia, you forgot Clayton Garzon.

    1. Ingrid Salim

      Mr. Roberson is pursuing a doctorate thorough the Ed Leadership Program at UC Davis, which meets on weekends for the first two years.

      His contract originally included tuition costs, but he turned them down as the economic situation had not improved. He is paying his own tuition.

  18. anonymous pundit

    Tia,
    My point is that Sheila Allen has a conflict between trying to represent the school district on land use issues (school property/facilities planning committee) while running for city council, and the school board/district is clueless. This begs the question, where else has the district been clueless because of similar blindness in integrity? This is the core issue being brought out by this coaching tiff.
    Assembly is off topic, but Krovoza, no problem. He is not trying to hold one office while running for another. Wolk, huge problem. If Wolk wants to be in the Assembly, fine. He could demonstrate his integrity by resigning from council in time for a candidate to fill the position this June.

    1. wdf1

      A.P.: My point is that Sheila Allen has a conflict between trying to represent the school district on land use issues (school property/facilities planning committee) while running for city council, and the school board/district is clueless.

      Clueless? Do you think no one else on the school board or district knows that she’s running for city council? Do you think there’s going to be some sort of land transfer that’s going to happen before June? Does the sub-group vote on anything?

      What’s the worst scenario you imagine from this situation?

  19. iPad Guy

    This is a lot more simple than we’re making it. There are two questions that are to be answered:

    1. Why did Coach Crawford cut the student athlete from the squad?

    2. Will the school board (minus one) support the superintendent’s decision not to rehire the coach?

    We seem to be chasing a lot of rabbits down tunnels that lead nowhere. And expressing a lot of outrage about peripheral matters that have little to do with what’s facing the board now.

    Things like: whether the student had the right to return to the volleyball team, whether it was illegal for Dr. Peterson to reveal the letter he received from the district, whether The Enterprise should have published the news about this, whether the school board member was wrong months ago or years ago, whether anyone has some gossip about what hasn’t been reported and speculation what motives the players had.

    None of these matters is very useful discussion fodder unless to help justify Coach Crawford’s act of cutting the player from the team. And, even that isn’t helpful since none of us knows the reason she took the action.

    The coach gets the chance to explain herself. The superintendent gets his chance, as well.

    With all due respect, the fact is there’s a big mess to resolve. Was it because of a school board member’s bad behavior or was it because of a coach who decided to dump a player to get even? What difference at this point does it make?

    It is the school’s district’s job to figure out what happened and do everything they can to prevent it from ever happening again.

    There’ll be plenty of time down the road to criticize all the participants some more.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      … but when we mention the player’s statistics from last season – objective performance data – we are told to mind our own business, and keep quite.

  20. TrueBlueDevil

    The Great Delay

    Sometime in late fall or early winter, the powers that be decided to let Coach Crawford go. But there was a long delay in telling her, and her direct superiors, it seems. They just recently let her know. My guess has been that they (Petersons and their supporters) did this so that there wouldn’t be time to challenge the decision, they could insert their hand-picked volleyball coach from Folsom, and maybe the community would let it go, like the football and basketball coaches before them.

    Does this sound plausible?

    1. Michelle Millet

      TrueBlueDevil-Nothing will change unless people are willing to publicly and openly demand it. If enough people who are involved in this issue are willing to do so then you may effect change. Otherwise my guess it the status quo will continue.

  21. jimt

    Hopefully the girls on the high-school team are not exposed to any, er, unsportsmanlike conduct about this matter by coaches, parents, admins, interested spectators, etc.

    I’m not sure which side of the court the ball is on, or how many technical fouls have been called so far (is mercy ever called for on open spike-shot opportunities?).

  22. Robin W

    The suggestion that the School Board should defer to the Superintendent on personnel decisions makes absolutely no sense in this case, where the personnel decision was prompted by complaints and follow-up demands by a School Board member’s husband, and was the same personnel decision advocated for by that School Board member last year. It is incumbent on the School Board to clean up this mess created by unethical conduct by one of their own – and perhaps by the Board’s failure to send their wayward colleague a clear enough message last year about her ethical duties as a Board member. A vote of censure sounds appropriate this time since the wayward School Board member is apparently ethically tone deaf.

    The Board also needs to clean up the district administration’s mess in the delay and timing of the decision, and needs to send the administration a message about their screw-ups in this case. There is no way the School Board can punt on this one. And considering the layers of this mess, it would behoove them to release some real information when they make their decisions, instead of hiding behind the “privacy of personnel matters” mantra after this coach and teacher has been defamed repeatedly in this process.

    1. iPad Guy

      I don’t think we rightly can accuse of a public body of “hiding behind” privacy rules. These are established to protect employees and are supported by unions and other employee groups.

      On the other hand, there’s no need to demand the school board release confidential information about Coach Crawford. The employee is fully empowered to release anything she wants to.

      The issue the school board is considering is whether the coach improperly cut a student athlete, not whether an unreasonable board member didn’t want to rehire the coast last year.

      The board should defer to the superintendent on personnel matters unless they disagree enough to use their power to fire the superintendent or they’re part of an appeal process. Consider, this situation might never have come about if last year’s coach contracts hadn’t showed up on the school board agenda!

      1. Michelle Millet

        Consider, this situation might never have come about if last year’s coach contracts hadn’t showed up on the school board agenda!

        I wonder how this policy of the board approving hires (I believe they do this for all employee’s?) originated . Is this standard procedure for most school districts?

      2. Michelle Millet

        The employee is fully empowered to release anything she wants to.

        I wonder how much information an employee is entitled to seeing in this situation. If a parent files a complaint against a coach is the coach entitled to see the complaint, or is that information also kept confidential from the employee in question.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Yes, it would be very interesting to see this “investigation” letter, which sounds biased. An investigation reports facts; a lawyer writes opinions. And in this case, Alexander Sperry of Van Dermyden Maddux Law isn’t personally a private investigator, he works for one (which is allowed). I hope that Coach Crawford considers releasing it. As a citizen, I’d also like to know how thorough this investigation was, how much it cost, and more. For example, if Sperry didn’t interview the assistant coaches and a few players, then it would smell right away.

  23. TrueBlueDevil

    $200 an hour … Alexander Sperry gave the DJUSD the bargain price. Mr. Greenwald, did the request include who referred this lawyer, and what other law firms were considered?

  24. TrueBlueDevil

    The student paper for the Blue Devils also linked to 4 video tapes from a recent district meeting I think it is extremely revealing that a large group of students showed up at 7 AM to be a part of this DSJUD process. Video clips from youtube include a student, a parent, and Dr. Peterson.

    http://www.bluedevilhub.com/2014/02/13/school-board-grants-appeal-crawford/

    I also find it interesting that the same high school paper explained why the cheerleading coach recently resigned. “She told us she couldn’t handle the parents constantly critiquing everything she did and she became too stressed out,” junior Addie Neel said.

  25. David Greenwald

    Looks like the district erred here by a lot.

    Just got this email from the district: “Dear Mr. Greenwald, Based on research that we completed today, we have found that the information we gave you previously was incomplete.”

    Crawford-attorney

  26. TrueBlueDevil

    One of the video clips linked to by the Blue Devi’s student newspaper is of Dr. Peterson, Nancy’s husband. Apparently he feels that the community reaction is retaliation, which is quite convoluted.

    Since confidentiality laws cloud a lot of this, I think it would be interesting to simply interview the assistant volleyball coaches. Were they interviewed by attorney Sperry? Oh well, they can’t speak b/c they are DJUSD employees … is that why they were recently and unexpectedly rehired in such haste?

  27. Robin W

    I must have missed something. Where is the written district policy that says the complaining party is entitled to receive a written summary of the “investigative report” (which concerns and contains confidential personnel info) but that the taxpayers and other affected individuals (athletes and other students, for example) are not entitled to such information? Did the coach ever get a copy of the “investigative report” used to terminate her VSA?

    1. David Greenwald

      I’ll have more on this in my story tomorrow, but according to Gina Daleiden, “The District provides the complainant and the respondent with correspondence regarding the results of the investigation, including the factual findings, conclusions (if any), and the next steps in the process.”

  28. iPad Guy

    I’ve developed the impression that the coach couldn’t have done anything to deserve not getting rehired, that the investigation was superficial and that everyone in town gave Ms. Crawford the highest of marks for her coaching.

    Then comes today’s Enterprise with Bob Dunning’s take on the mess, including more quotes from DJUSD’s letter to Dr. Peterson, including one that appealed for the letter itself to be kept confidential (even though the district apparently didn’t feel compelled itself to keep the information confidential).

    Dunning includes an interesting addition to the “burden of proof” we’ve been discussing here, noting that the “investigator’s factual conclusion…after weighing the information provided…finds by the preponderance of the evidence….”

    Is it possible that the district could have handled this matter in worse ways than it has?

    A few pages later, we find that the paper’s letters section is filled with opinions about the situation. Two simply opine that IF Coach Crawford is guilty, it’s a terrible thing.

    The other letter, from a former volleyball player who has a more negative view of the coach’s history with the girls’ team, noting that most players quit before their senior year “because of personal conflicts with the coaches.”

    It’s difficult to weigh the value of such a testimonial, just as it is difficult to determine whether a winning record is the most important measuring stick.

    But there are two numbers other than the win-loss records that bear a look. Of the “14 freshman athletes playing volleyball…only three remained…by their senior year.” Furthermore, the player in question is “the only one cut” regardless of their grade level or years of experience.

    Coach Crawford needs to inform the school board of her reason for cutting the player. And, the school board needs to keep all of this confidential regardless of its decision of the coach’s appeal.

      1. iPad Guy

        What do you feel I’m defending that is utterly indefensible here? I’m sure you can be more specific in your criticism, and it would help me to understand where I’ve been out of line.

        I’d just like folks to avoid jumping to conclusions based on speculation and innuendo, something that has been rampant in these columns. I’ve been a little troubled at how vicious my fellow Vanguarders have been on such little information. I do realize I’m in a tiny minority in this Vanguard discussion.

        I’m open to the possibility that the student athlete was treated unfairly, something that is indefensible if true.

        The only thing clear to me is that the school board and administration have taken a bad situation and made it worse and worse and worse at each opportunity.

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