My View: Peterson Clearly Needs to Stop Talking

Peterson-Nancy

By now it is pretty clear that no one is advising Nancy Peterson – at least no one is advising her with an ounce of common sense.  If they were, they would have told her by now that there is nothing she is going to say that is going to make things better or that is going to win a public argument that she has already lost.

Her interview last week simply added fuel to the fire, especially when she told people that they needed to calm down.  I have been doing this a long time and the only thing telling people to calm down accomplishes is to make them more angry.

The comments that her husband, Robert Peterson, made at the school board meeting did not make things better.  So, after those failures, she decided the best idea was to write a full op-ed in the Davis Enterprise.  Again, bad idea.  She is not going to write or argue her way out of this.

There are already 23 comments on the Enterprise at the time of this publication and the piece hasn’t been officially published yet.

In addition to the mistaken notion that she can argue her way out of this, there is the second problem – that she utterly refuses to accept any responsibility in the matter.

Nancy Peterson, in her piece, references the Davis Enterprise editorial and argues, “The editorial was correct about one thing: Children do suffer when adults cannot agree.  No one knows this better than my children.”

She writes, “The editorial board took a position about my role as a board member of the Davis Joint Unified School District without ever talking to me. Columnist Bob Dunning also has done the same. I wonder why people draw conclusions about topics they have not researched.”

She continued, “The blog-fest is another topic entirely. My children are students in this community and our local school district. When did it become OK to attack, belittle and debase children? They have suffered unfair personal attacks by certain bloggers and I’m not OK with that. None of us should be.”

We want to clarify that the Vanguard has never attacked or even identified her children outside of direct quotes from the Davis Enterprise article that was based on the report that her husband leaked to the press.

While it is unfortunate that her children ended up in the middle of this – she put them there.  She put them there when she could not make the distinction between her role as parent and her role as school board member.

She writes, “Please, for the protection of all our students, leave children’s names, activities, rankings and so on, out of blogs, speculation and rumor mills.”

The Vanguard has done just that.

She goes on to state that she has three issues she would like to clarify.

She writes, “I’m greatly restricted in my freedom to speak about specific personnel issues. So while the public wants to have total transparency when it comes to staff, it’s simply not possible.”

She continues, “I can, however, assure you that despite accusations that my votes were based on dissatisfaction over playing time, these claims are simply not true. My decision to vote against a single coach’s variable service agreement in volleyball was centered on board policy and CIF guidelines, as written in the DJUSD Handbook for Coaches.”

The problem is that she fails to acknowledge that she herself fueled this fire with statements she made from the dais in her position as school board member.

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.”

I’m sorry Ms. Peterson, but that is not doing as you state – simply centered on board policy, that is making a highly personal attack on a coach.  I do not know what they are based on because you have never bothered to talk to me on the matter despite numerous emails, but I do know that your public statement is in contradiction to your stated position.

It seems strange that, despite having the same information as Ms. Peterson, her colleagues all came to a different conclusion back in July.

She continues: “Should I have recused myself from voting on the volleyball coaching contract because my child had a history there?”

Clearly you should have, if you cannot understand that now, you have learned nothing in this process.  Fortunately your colleagues recognize this now and I believe that they will correct the problem.

She continues, “Should I also recuse myself from all votes that have anything to do with any segment of the school district where my children have current, past or potentially future interactions? Or is the real issue that I didn’t vote the way some wanted me to?”

The beautiful thing about this issue is I have no dog in this fight, I can simply sit back and evaluate this from a public policy standpoint.  Bottom line: I don’t care how you voted, I care whether you exercised proper judgment here.

As I have stated a number of times, the initial decision to pull the VSA from consent could be justified.  Even voting in 3-1 dissent could be justified.  The problem really occurs later when she made the very strongly-worded and public condemnation of a district employee and then proceeded to put her daughter back on the team.

A conflict of interest arises at the point where personal issues with a coach encroach on her role as a school board member, with a fiduciary responsibility to the district as a whole rather than just her family.

“No one asked why another trustee with a history in the volleyball program didn’t recuse. Perhaps this is really about voting the ‘right’ way.”

It is an open question as to whether other board members have always conducted themselves properly.  We have not investigated it, primarily because we have seen few examples where personal feelings have so blatantly encroached on public policy decisions.

She then writes: “In the course of dealing with a student issue, any student or family member has a legal right to file a formal complaint and, unfortunately, some families have experienced this need. For the protection of students, the district is legally obligated to investigate each and every complaint and come to a conclusion. Either party may appeal the outcome to the school board.”

“Just because I’m in an elected position, my family members did not give up their rights as citizens of the community or as students under protection of district policy and California Education Code. I did, however, recuse myself from the appeal currently before the board because the complainant is a family member.”

While Ms. Peterson is legally correct here, this goes back to her decision to make the strong comment in July, send her daughter back to the coach she publicly admonished, and then to file a complaint for retaliation.

The Petersons may well be justified in filing a complaint here, but they again mix Nancy Peterson’s role between parent and fiduciary, even though they have Robert rather than Nancy file the complaint.

The bigger problem is that the Petersons instigated the conflict and then leaked the results into the press.  Those are actions that are fundamentally at odds with Nancy Peterson’s duties on the school board and where we have the biggest problems with her actions.

Nancy Peterson may believe that her actions were in good faith, but as our article last week shows, she bears primary responsibility in this matter and makes not even a hint at a concession that she might have behaved wrongly.

The appalling thing here is that there is no accountability by Nancy Peterson as to what mistakes she might have made.  Instead, everyone else is to blame.  She is simply misunderstood.

Last week, the Vanguard published its “You Make the Call” Commentary and laid out each step of the way who was to blame for the escalation.  After our step by step process, we assigned 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.

She inflamed the controversy.  And then, after an ill-advised complaint, she and her husband threw gasoline on the controversy by leaking the letter to the Enterprise, and now by issuing forth public comments.

There is nothing to be gained by any of this.  The school board wants out.  They made it clear on Thursday.

Board President Gina Daleiden stated, “However, the board strongly and unanimously urges the Peterson-Crawford parties to enter into mediation to settle this conflict.”

“We want to state in the clearest terms that we want our district removed as the battlefield,” she said.  “DJUSD needs our resources, our focus, and our energy moving forward in educating our students.”

“The board encourages both of the parties to seek professional mediation on this matter so that there can be some healing in this painful process and so that the district can get back to the business of serving the kids,” she concluded.

Some people wrote that they wanted more than this rebuke – and it was a rebuke.  They could not get more than that.  The board doesn’t have the power to force the parties to mediation – and, having not read the report to our knowledge, they cannot state more… not yet.

What they can do is publicly ask the two parties to stop acting like children.  And really, it is one party they are speaking to, because Julie Crawford figured out two weeks ago that she needed to stop talking.  She was advised by counsel and it was the right decision; the Petersons have taken no such advice and the community is really screaming for it.

There is an old adage – if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.  Imagine what this would look like if Nancy Peterson had not made the statement in July 2013, her husband had not leaked the report to the press, and they had kept their mouths shut and let the district’s appeal process play itself out.

We would be talking about the sales tax election or some other controversy right now and the Petersons’ children would not have been run through the mixer.  Sadly, she is a school board member, her primary responsibility is to the children of this district and, somewhere along the way, she has forgotten that in this petty and personal dispute.

Remove the district as the battlefield in this fight and let us get back to the business at hand, the school board begged – we can ask for nothing less.

—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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35 Comments

  1. Michelle Millet

    In addition to the mistaken notion that she can argue her way out of this, there is the second problem that she utterly refuses to accept any responsibility in the matter.

    This is one of the more troublesome aspects of this situation to me, and it is indication that she is not looking to resolve this matter.

    I don’t doubt her concern for her daughter, which is why it’s puzzling to me that she would write a letter of this nature. She clearly feels wronged, and maybe she is justified in doing so, but by writing this letter she is putting her need to convince people of this fact above the needs of her kids, the school district and the school board. I have serious concerns about her judgement for doing so, and my faith in her ability to lead has eroded even further. In the best interest of her kids, the school district, and the school board, I think its time she step down.

    1. Tia Will

      There is still one piece of communication that I feel that the Peterson’s could make that would be redeeming in my eyes. That would be a heartfelt public apology for their part in this mess. Speaking only for myself, I have made several errors in my life that had I been a public figure, would have created at least this much disturbance. Fortunately, I have chosen to live my life for the most part, in the safety of relative privacy which provides cover for lapses in judgement.

      An unconditional apology from Nancy Peterson for the trouble that her actions have caused the community would be an indication to me that she has learned from this experience and could provide a basis for continuing to serve.

      1. Mark West

        I agree that an unconditional apology to the Community and to Coach Crawford would be an indication that Nancy Peterson ‘has learned from this experience’ but at this point it would be far too little and far too late to become ‘a basis for continuing to serve.’

        I have a very low tolerance for politicians who abuse their power and use their positions to support their personal agenda. Nancy Peterson has already proven that she is unfit for public office and no apology, no matter how heartfelt, will change that.

        The only question remaining for me is will Sheila Allen, Gina Daleiden, Tim Taylor and Susan Lovenburg continue to turn a blind eye towards Nancy Peterson’s abusive behavior and thus be complicit in her acts of abuse, or will they finally show some integrity and act to stop this fiasco.

  2. iPad Guy

    “She writes, ‘please, for the protection of all our students, leave children’s names, activities, rankings and so on, out of blogs, speculation and rumor mills’.

    The Vanguard has done just that.”

    The Vanguard doesn’t deserve any plaudits along these lines. Although the editor hasn’t generated this type of argument on behalf of the coach’s decision, you’ve sat by idly while a few commenters have made very specific references of the sort over and over and over.

    You’ve been very quick to jump in to argue with those as they make points with which you disagree (see the “rebuke article” comments, for one example). But, I’m at a loss to remember a single Vanguard admonition about the nasty, personal name-calling and the very specific, repeated charges about student athlete “performance.”

    Thanks go to a few regular commenters who kept appealing for some discretion. Too bad The Vanguard didn’t follow their lead and pull comments from the impassioned repeat offenders.

    Might as well take credit (and responsibility) for being the unrestrained vehicle here. To what do you think Ms. Peterson was referring, the “other blog”?

    1. growth issue

      Ipad guy, give it a rest. I’ve read every article and comment on the Vanguard, (anyone surprised?), and the commentary here has been very above board. Yes the volleyball stats have been brought up, but don’t you think that’s a part of this story because it could very well come in to play as to why Crawford made the cuts that she did?

      1. hpierce

        No… I don’t think that the stats (inparticular) have any place in this discussion. Because we are not voting, nor able to come to meaningful consensus, because the reality is that four board members (unless someone does a “stupid”) will decide whether the coach’s appeal is upheld, or whether the administration’s action (to not renew a vsa) will be upheld. And in doing so, I expect board members to ignore the vox populi, hear the facts, and make a decision using their best personal judgment. Somebody needs to be the adult here. This should not be a politically calculated process at this point. Just my opinion.

    2. Michelle Millet

      iPad-I have requested, in past posts, that at least one, if not two particularly offensive comments regarding student behavior be pulled, which they immediately were.

  3. PhilColeman

    Very good summary and analysis. I find myself genuinely feeling very sorry for the Petersons at this moment. Both are very highly educated, both are certainly old enough to call on many life experiences to guide them. I’ll never question the fact that Dr. and Ms. Peterson honestly want to contribute to the good of the greater society.

    Presumably, they have received much counsel from friends and supporters, and maybe from well-intentioned detractors. Yet, with all that going for them they come across now as whiny, sanctimonious, and the latest, pitiful.

    Nancy Peterson bears full responsibility for how this disaster started and the sequence of events that followed. For a politician particularly, Nancy should have known that selecting a public venue to air a personal biased dissent to a Board ruling is fraught with much risk. She sure knows now. The “public” battlefield is fueled by image not substance, and the Peterson’s image right now is about as bad as it can get. Meanwhile, Peterson’s nemesis, Ms. Crawford, kept her yap shut, probably aware of Napoleon’s sage advice: Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.

    Enter Dr. Peterson. While husband Rob’s supportive actions were understandable, they remain unforgivable. Borrowing Mr. Greenwald’s metaphor, another can of gasoline. Leaking information to the press can be an extremely effective tool. But it’s imperative that you never get caught. After getting caught, Rob waved the letter in front of a camera, a letter with “Confidential” in large bold print! This from a man whose own professional ethics commands that he be discreet with information deemed confidential. Insert: “What was he thinking?”

    The information leaked actually failed in its intended result because the letter–a very poorly written document–instead focused suspicion on the quality, thoroughness, and objectivity of the investigation itself. The relative bargain-basement price charged only added to these three suspicions.

    Ms. Peterson reclused herself due to an obvious personal conflict of interest. Even that solitary positive act in the Peterson column was belated, and should have been done a year earlier. Yet, any positive mileage obtained with that gesture was lost and exacerbated by the pending Op Ed. You don’t recluse yourself from a pending hearing on an administrative appeal and then “unrecluse” yourself with a (feeble) public plea to the masses, including every other Board member. Insert: “What was she thinking?”

    The Op Ed has effectively cost Ms. Peterson any support from Board members. They had already lost public support. I strongly suspect that there may have been a smile or two from school employees when media requests were received on the cost of the infamous investigation. Game, set, match.

    1. iPad Guy

      Very good summary and analysis. I agree with all of your observations with one possible clarification.

      Both parties kept quiet from mid-December for nearly two months. Coach Crawford made the first document dump to The Enterprise, obviously to generate public support once she found that she wouldn’t be rehired. It was two days later that Dr. Peterson (not content to let the public and closed discussions proceed without his input) provided his own newsworthy document.

      Having laid the groundwork for the public pressuring the school board to sustain her appeal, Ms. Crawford took her attorney’s advice to stap talking. It’s sad that the Petersons either didn’t get such advice or didn’t follow it if they did.

      1. PhilColeman

        Not trying to quibble here, just asking a question in the shared quest for clarification. Did Crawford’s actions you described come before or after Peterson’s public comment in the dissenting vote?

  4. Ryan Kelly

    I still don’t know what the coach did to prompt Nancy Peterson’s ire in the first place. Nancy needs to understand that if her child is unhappy and wants to lodge a complaint to the extent that the coach is removed, then the player needs to realize that there may be public fallout and should be prepared to stand her ground. If it was only the parents’ complaint, then Nancy brought this on her daughter and she has no one to blame but herself.

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    I compliment The Vanguard and Mr. Greenwald on another well-thought-out piece.

    The Peterson’s public service is commendable, and Dr. Peterson’s contributions in his area of expertise – medicine & the human body – were and are community minded.

    But somewhere, the train got off the tracks.

    For those who want to continue to advise or coach the Peterson’s, isn’t it valuable information to know who they are, unvarnished? Let her be who she is! This is not the 2nd or 3rd week of this imbroglio. There have been so many repeated steps, missteps, and questionable statements, that if tomorrow they issued a mea culpa, I would not believe it.

    If indeed Coach Crawford was Broom Hilda behind closed doors, then hopefully that will come to light. We can only speculate without the facts. I can imagine she might have fired off a terse email, or had a verbal exchange with Mrs. Peterson. But the Peterson’s come off so bad in public, I can only imagine it is far worse behind closed doors. And the “calm down” comment is so condescending. Even 6-hour coach Rob Cole embellished his impact on DHS volleyball, and then whined about it at a public forum.

    Forgive me for my cynicism, but it now seems like the “child card” is now played at every opportunity. In my brief time online, I have commented on a half dozen forums, and this one is particularly civil. I think some folks don’t like publicly available, objective facts which undermine their agenda.

  6. Tia Will

    “if tomorrow they issued a mea culpa, I would not believe it.”

    How would you feel if tomorrow they issued a mea culpa and made positive steps to repair the damage done to the community voluntarily ? In my mind, this would go a long way towards mitigating both the financial and emotional harm that this flap has caused.

    Some suggestions that I can think of based on the skills sets of the individuals involved would be: speaking before youth groups about the importance of separating one’s own interests from those of the community, speaking about the ability to discern what communications should be handled in private, and which are appropriate for a wider audience ( particularly valuable in a time when the internet is used as a public forum, sometimes with devastating consequences).

    In Dr. Peterson’s case perhaps putting in some volunteer clinic hours or mentoring medical students. In Nancy Peterson and Coach Crawford’s case, perhaps some outreach regarding the negative effects of personal vendettas and retaliation, both direct and indirect.

      1. growth issue

        I agree TrueBlueDevil. This isn’t the first occasion and it has been going on for far too long. In my opinion it’s time for Julie Crawford to now take this all the way.

        1. hpierce

          All the way where? She wasn’t fired, labelled a registered volleyball offender, or anything like that. I thought someone wrote that the ‘value’ of the spring boys’ v-ball vsa was $2000. Why would anyone go to court for $2000?

          1. Leigh Whitmire Choate

            It isn’t about the money when one coaches a sport. People coach because they love it and hopefully because they are good at it. Coach Crawford is an excellent and talented young coach and she has every reason to stand up for herself as far as keeping the job that is rightfully hers that she has also rightfully earned.

            It is about the principle of this whole thing.

            The way I see “take this all the way” is for her to continue to try and get her job back. Why should she not get to continue coaching just because a person in a position of power doesn’t like her? There is no conflict between the two parties, it has always been a one sided situation where Peterson wanted her gone for personal reasons only.

          2. hpierce

            Let me be clear… barring damning evidence in the investigation, unequivocal evidence, the vsa should be re-instated, iMHO. Implying that the teacher should sue the district, if that outcome does not happen, just sounded ill-advised, at best.

          3. TrueBlueDevil

            Dear Leigh Whitmire Choate, I have what I hope are 2 simple questions.

            1. Do you have any idea what the *original flash point* was, that helped to create the animosity between the two?

            I can only offer wild guesses. Does Mrs. Peterson consider herself a better VB coach than Coach Crawford? Did she covet a VB coaching job, which never came to pass? Did a previous child not excel at DHS volleyball?

            2. Has Coach Crawford made any attempts to make peace with Mrs. Peterson, especially in the beginning?

            I understand if you can’t answer, or want to give general answers. Thank you.

          4. Leigh Whitmire Choate

            It will be the very quick version but here you go.

            1. Yes, this started in 2010 when I was the Varsity VB coach at DHS. Nancy was my assistant, Julie was the JV coach and we had another girl coaching the freshman team. Nancy’s friend didn’t like the freshman coach for personal reasons and Nancy asked me to to not have the frosh coach back the following year. I said no. At this point in time Nancy was a very close friend of mine and my family.

            The following year I retired from coaching after a very long coaching career and Julie took over the varsity team and the other coach took the JV and a new frosh coach was hired. Nancy had asked Julie to do the same thing she had asked me, don’t hire the now JV coach back and Julie also said no.

            This just continued to escalate from there as both I and Julie stood up for what we believed to be best for the vb program at DHS and Nancy didn’t agree. Nancy was only an assistant coach with me for one year. Nancy didn’t want to coach , she just wanted to have a say in who did.

            IMO it was not Nancy’s goal to coach, I think it was an effort to get close to the program so that she could try and control how things were done within the program.

            2. YES, there were many times that myself, Nancy, and Coach Crawford tried to to reach an agreement regarding Nancy’s views and requests. I know that Julie also did this on her own after I stopped coaching as I was helping with the transition of the program to their new coach. Every time something didn’t go her way Nancy just seemed to get angrier and her actions/attacks more volatile.

            I know that we both asked for help from district and site administration and they fell upon deaf ears. IMO they all knew what was going on and could do nothing about it. A district admin told me “we know she does things like that but we can’t do anything about it”

            I know that Coach Crawford was professional and kind even though that was not what was being thrown at her. Nancy had that program under a microscope after that, looking for any little thing that she could to take Julie down. I don’t think that there was a way to make piece unless Nancy got her way.

            I have worked with Julie and shared an office with her for at least the last 7 years (until this year as I am on a leave of absence). I don’t know how she has been able to stay so strong through all of this, and to me that shows how great her character is.

            I have watched daily the bullying and verbal attacks from Nancy toward Julie and the outcome of those attacks and how they have affected Julie. Nobody deserves to have to endure that kind of constant treatment and it has been a real detriment to Julie’s quality of life. I know, because I have lived it and witnessed it. Nancy did it to me too my family as well, she does it to anyone that stands up for Julie, as I have witnessed other families and the way they have been treated by Nancy.

            This IMO cannot be called a conflict unless you consider standing up for yourself against a bully that continually harasses you a “conflict”. Julie has done nothing but hold her ground in an ethical and professional way, all the while Nancy continued to escalate her attacks on DHS VB.

            It has been an awful last 4 years.

          5. PhilColeman

            Leigh:

            Are you comfortable with identifying Ms. Peterson’s status when she interfered with coaching decisions made by you and Coach Crawford? In other words, was Peterson a parent, coach, or trustee when she exerted pressures or voiced objections at key points in your history? I’d also like to hear more on how this interference compromised your ability to coach.

            Finally, do you plan to appear with Crawford when she presents her appeal?

          6. Leigh Whitmire Choate

            I have been open about her status all along. She was a parent, a coach,the president of blue and white foundation , and a trustee during the times that she exerted pressure. It just escalated when she because a trustee.

            The constant interference definitely was something that made it more challenging/difficult to do our jobs as coaches and as teachers in the district.

            I do not live in davis anymore and am not able to be there on the date that has been set.

  7. Barbara King

    How does one find Davis Enterprise articles and commentaries days before they are published? Is there a new posting file area or something similar?

    1. Michelle Millet

      Barbara-from the link David provided you can sign up for an email subscription to Enterprise articles. You get them in advance of them being printed. (but be warned, you get like 50+ articles a day). Not sure if there is another way to do it.

    2. wdf1

      Barbara King: How does one find Davis Enterprise articles and commentaries days before they are published? Is there a new posting file area or something similar?

      As articles are published online, they are posted on a running list at this link.

  8. Fremontia

    It is now obvious to everyone that Nancy Peterson is an insufferable bully and has repeatedly abused her authority as a school board member. Taking three bites at the apple of getting a coach fired is at least two times too many. She has lost the support of the community and remaining on the school board will continue to erode the moral authority of that body. What ever she thinks this is about no longer matters. It is now about governance and is going to start costing the school district, first as donations decline, and, later when parcel taxes get voted down.

    She has failed her responsibility as a board member by conflating that role with her responsibilities as a parent. She should step down and return to her parenting responsibilities because she can no longer do any good in her role as a leader of our schools. Mark these words. The longer she remains on the board the less the community will be willing to give to the schools. If she thinks she can somehow redeem her reputation as a school leader she is wrong and the longer it takes for her to figure that out the worse its going to be for the kids and the schools.

    1. hpierce

      Interesting problem… Sheila Allen is running for CC, and will be unlikely to run for school board… though I saw (may be wrong) that Tim Taylor and Gina Daleiden are not planning to seek re-election. That would leave Susan Lovenburg as the only returning member if (am thinking not likely, even if it is the right thing) Peterson steps down. If Peterson steps down, three 4 year seats would be open, and one 2-year seat. Could be entertaining, as many soap operas are.

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