On Thursday night the Davis School Board voted 3-1 to uphold the district’s decision on not renewing Volleyball Coach Julie Crawford’s VSA (variable service agreement).
At the time, Board Member Susan Lovenburg said that she was declining to speak to her decision, stating that the board’s decision stands for itself.
But she added, “I think we’ve done the right thing. I’m certain that it’s not going to make everybody happy. But I think we really carefully weighed the factors we were dealing with and made the best decision that we could in the best interest of the community.”
Sheila Allen read from a lengthy prepared statement.
Now, several days after the controversial decision, rather than simply letting the matter die and allowing the community to move on at its own pace, the two board members have joined forces to tell the community that “it’s time to move on.”
They write, “Much has been said and written in the Davis media about the Crawford/Peterson complaint, and some of it has been speculative. For the record, we briefly recap the appeal process.”
“The Davis school board reviewed the facts of an independent investigation conducted on behalf of the district, listened closely to the statements of the parties involved in the appeal, then found that a preponderance of the evidence supported the conclusion that a coach made a poor judgment call which had negative consequences for a student,” they write.
“By the conclusion of the appeal, the independent investigator, the associate superintendent, the superintendent and a majority of the board all concurred that the facts supported this finding,” they continue. “The evidence demonstrated a poor decision, but not a poor volleyball coach. Poor choices have consequences, in this case, a short-term suspension from coaching. Though the board modified the consequence slightly, it largely reflects the original recommendation of the superintendent and Ms. Crawford is welcome to coach again in the future.”
“This episode has generated much debate in the community; we trust it will also guide us to greater mindfulness. The board and administration will review and strengthen policies and practices, especially those related to personal conflict of interest and to resolution of complaints. Parents should think carefully where the line lies between advocacy for a child and possible harassment of a coach or teacher. And educators are reminded that the best interest of students should always be the determining factor in a public school environment,” they write. “With these lessons in mind, it is time to move on.”
The problem, ironically is that statements like these do not allow the community to move on. For one thing, they generate more questions than answers.
While it is true that the majority of the board agreed and supported this finding, it was not universally true.
“I do believe that our district’s response to complaints and the way that we handle the procedure and the investigations needs to be in proportion,” Gina Daleiden stated. “I do believe in this instance the district went Code 3 on something that maybe didn’t warrant that.”
“I do not find in reading the investigation that there is a preponderance of evidence to support the findings and the conclusions,” she said. She added that they “ended up jumping right into the deep end of the pool” and she would have preferred to have seen this resolved “at a much lower level, a whole lot earlier.”
One problem with the finding by the board majority is it drew a very narrow line over what retaliation is.
Retaliation can be generally understood as the act of seeking revenge upon another. In this case, it seems that the school board understood the act of retaliation in the loosest of all possible terms, embraced in the notion that the decision to cut the Peterson’s daughter was “influenced at least in part” by the broader conflict between Nancy Peterson and Julie Crawford.
The three board members apparently took any evidence at all that “retaliation” occurred as necessary and sufficient to uphold the district and investigator’s ruling.
More importantly, the board remains silent on the conduct of their former colleague. In particular, Sheila Allen has never explained why she as board president allowed Nancy Peterson to publicly criticize a district employee.
Our lengthy evaluation of the entire episode focused on a number of critical mistakes, not just by Julie Crawford but by everyone involved. The district and board have never come to terms with those mistakes.
If the “evidence demonstrated a poor decision,” and “poor choices have consequences,” why is Julie Crawford the only one suffering a consequence here, at least formally at the hands of the board, in the form of “a short-term suspension from coaching”?
Remarkably, Sheila Allen and Susan Lovenburg’s colleague resigned and yet they make no mention of that or what might have led up to that.
Just as Nancy Peterson’s op-ed never offered insight into mistakes that she might have made, this op-ed falls short in the same way.
The authors write that “we trust it will also guide us to greater mindfulness” and that the board and administration “will review and strengthen policies and practices,” but they never enumerate what mistakes they made, they never elaborate on the mistakes by Nancy Peterson that forced her resignation, and in so doing we get only a small piece of the story.
The public cannot simply move on, it is not time, despite what the two board members insist. Indeed, the board has not even taken the few small steps to deal with the complaint process, conflicts of interest, or bullying that this incident reflected.
This is in effect the equivalent to Nancy Peterson telling everyone to calm down – telling people to move on before they are ready to do so rarely works and often incites more anger and frustration.
To Ms. Allen and Ms. Lovenburg, we suggest that you do the job you were elected to do, you allow the community to move on at its own pace, and in the future, we suggest when you communicate to the public, you do so with more insight into the entire breakdown of the process rather than what is, frankly, only a small and almost inconsequential piece of that process.
—David M. Greenwald reporting