My View: School Board Still Has Tough Job to Do on Thursday

Nancy Peterson addresses her colleagues from public comment in announcing her resignation on Thursday.
Nancy Peterson addresses her colleagues from public comment in announcing her resignation on Thursday.

The resignation of Nancy Peterson resolves only one small issue for the school board.  This is not a case where Nancy Peterson climbed onto a plane, flashed the peace sign, and disappeared into history.  We will not have the new leader be able to address the community and state that our long nightmare is over.

The voluntary departure of Nancy Peterson does make things easier on the school board in one clear way.  They no longer have the thorny issue to grapple with of how to admonish their colleague – if they deemed that appropriate.  They had the power to censure, but that power is basically a verbal slap on the wrist.

Nancy Peterson’s departure marked no act of contrition.  Keeping with previous public accounts, she admitted no fault, acknowledged no wrongdoing, and was not chastened in any way, shape or form.

On Thursday she called her daughter “the victim” in this case and stated, “my position to which I was elected has so far precluded what would otherwise be a process centered solely on the well-being of children regardless of their family’s background.”

She continued, “I believe that the best way to serve all students is to diffuse speculation and end further distractions so that the board can carefully deliberate the findings of the district’s report.”

The tone and nature of her resignation signaled to many that this battle is far from over.  There will clearly be no withdrawal of the complaint, we have learned there will be no mediation, and Ms. Peterson clearly believes by bowing out of her position, she is better positioned to fight this to its conclusion.

In a very real sense, she is doing what we have previously argued that she should have done from the start – clearly delineate the line between parent and trustee of the school district.  Had she done this in July, we would likely not be here today.

As we argued a few weeks ago and several times since then, had she made the strong statement regarding Coach Julie Crawford in July and then pulled her daughter from the volleyball program, she would have been able to act as school board member and direct her daughter away from turmoil.

On the other hand, she could have remained a parent and acted in what she saw as the protection of her daughter by recusing herself from the vote in July or, at the very least, refraining from making an inappropriate comment about a district employee when she stated in open session: “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.”

By trying to do both, she conflicted herself and has embroiled the district and the community in this bitterly contentious and divisive issue.

By resigning office she may believe that she is in better position to fight this battle and she will certainly have more freedom to speak out on the issue, as she will not be legally bound by employee confidentiality issues.

At the same time, one of her great advantages over Ms. Crawford was the vast power differential that a school board member enjoys over employees.  That differential is now gone.  Moreover, while Ms. Peterson can speak out, her reputation is so badly damaged it is not clear that the community is inclined to listen to or sympathize with her.

The school district and school board have a perilous road ahead that will continue despite the removal of one key obstacle – how to deal with Nancy Peterson.

However, now they have to determine whether the $22,000 report is accurate and conclusive in terms of the question of retaliation against the Peterson’s daughter.

As Board President Gina Daleiden explained on February 20, “Adopted Board policy directs the Board to hear the appeal in closed session.”

She continued, “The question on appeal will be whether the Administration’s conclusions are supported by a preponderance of evidence and whether the administrative remedy is appropriate to the conclusions.”

As Ms. Daleiden has stated, since “the School Board is now acting in a quasi-judicial role in a current appeal process, we each have to maintain impartiality until the conclusion.”

She added, “The Board does desire to be as transparent as possible.  In order to follow through with our role in the appeal, however, we must protect impartiality.”

As I wrote on Sunday, I am normally the first one to cast blame on public officials for failing to do their duties or taking the easy way out because it is more politically expedient.  But in this case – at least for now – I urge patience.

On Thursday, Ms. Daleiden stated, “I know this board intends to [consider] questions about policy and the effectiveness of procedures so that we can move this district forward.”

She added, “After we rule on the appeal on March 13, we will be released from the strict impartiality and will be able to comment on the entire administrative procedure of the complaint and the investigation and look at how we can move our district forward (with) effective and transparent procedures in place.”

“We will have more to say after (March) 13,” she added.

The key from the public’s perspective is what more can they and will they say.

As we noted this week, the public’s patience is wearing out.  As one poster put it, “David you suggest patience, and we have had it. They get one more week, before the real issue comes to head, and that is removal of Mrs Peterson. If the board really wants to come out with a strong statement it would be as follows.”

They continued, “We are reinstating Coach Crawford to her coaching job. We find that she has been personally bullied for the past 4 years by Mrs Peterson, who has used her position as a board member to further her own agenda. Mrs Peterson’s continued presence on this board will only continue to negatively affect DJUSD, and we strongly urge you to resign.”

They add, “That would go a long way to restoring trust, and faith in our elected school board.”

The resignation removes one complication from that statement.  No longer does the board need to admonish one of their own.

The question will be – will the board see the issue as community members and supporters of Ms. Crawford do or will they ultimately uphold the findings of the Alexander Sperry report?

That answer will largely determine whether this issue goes away after Thursday or whether it continues to fester.

The other interesting development is that the board will either have to order a special election to fill the seat or they will have to appoint someone who would stand for election fairly soon.  None of the three incumbents up for reelection have indicated they will run for reelection.  Gina Daleiden is a possibility with Sheila Allen already announcing she will not.

That means come November, there is a possibility that only Susan Lovenburg will remain on the board from the five who started the meeting there on Thursday.

A lot of questions remain, and Thursday will be a critical date in starting to answer those.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. growth issue

    I don’t care what’s in the report, the easy way our for the school board is to reinstate Crawford so I predict that’s the avenue that will be taken and then they can put this all behind them.

  2. SODA

    AGAIN, I feel this is NOT just the Peterson/Crawford issue that needs to be dealt with by the Board and communicated effectively to the public by the Board. I think the Board owes the public a summary of what went wrong in THEIR and the administration’s jurisdiction during this incident and how they intend to improve the processes that led us to where we are….not least of which is the expense of the investigation, who chose the investigators, what limits, etc. And the whole process of roles of AD, principal, superintendent, Board as far as VSAs and coaching goes. It seems many of us have reiterated this throughout and so David, I think your article comes up short (with respect!)….

  3. fremontia

    “On Thursday she called her daughter “the victim” in this case and stated, ‘my position to which I was elected has so far precluded what would otherwise be a process centered solely on the well-being of children regardless of their family’s background.’

    She continued, ‘I believe that the best way to serve all students is to diffuse speculation and end further distractions so that the board can carefully deliberate the findings of the district’s report.’ ”


  4. fremontia

    She ran on helping all students but her service seemed to devolve into an obsession about a volleyball coach and her own family. She was unable to isolate this one issue from the greater good her service might have done for those underprivileged students she claimed to want to serve.

    I guess she decided that avenging the damage done to the children of doctors and Princeton educated Ph.D’s was more important. Her lip service was about educational equity, but her service became more about her own privileged family and some perceived wrong brought by, of all things, a volleyball coach. When volleyball becomes the important thing on a school board member’s agenda instead of things like reading, math, language acquisition, special needs, feeding hungry children, access to technology, class size or a thousand other things you are clearly off track.

    Resigning therefore was the best thing for her to do. I hope after her intransigent resignation she CALMS DOWN and goes gently into that dark night, but I fear she will continue to rage, rage, against the dying of the light. With apologies to Dylan Thomas.

  5. PhilColeman

    Nancy Peterson’s resignation speech gave clear indication that the husband’s formal complaint will remain in place. Throughout this drama, the Petersons have shown combativeness and defiance towards any notion of compromise or moving this battle to some other arena. From this, both Bob Dunning and David Greenwald say with much confidence that we can all tune in for “The Thursday Night Fights.”

    I’m far less certain of that happening. In fact, I think there is a very real possibility the Board will realize its most desired wish–the appeal ruling will go away. I’m not trying to be a contrarian, that position has been taken by several other interesting folks. But I’ll give reasons why I think the Petersons will drop the other foot and ask for the withdrawal of the formal complaint and finding.

    The Petersons have lost all credibility in the community. I say this while still entertaining the possibility that their original grievance MAY have had some merit. Their numerous procedural mis-steps have eroded their arguments to nothingness. Yet, that doesn’t mean that their depiction of Crawford’s mindset towards their daughter lacked total merit. What is now certain is that none of us will ever really know.

    I’m further persuaded they have lost all legitimacy and credibility with the remaining Board members. There must be some degree of resentment felt by the Board having been pulled into what has become a community firestorm. Political bodies don’t like being in that position — and while that should not enter into any judicial deliberation — it nonetheless usually does.

    The Board voted 4-0 to hear this appeal. They deliberately walked into the lion’s mouth. True, to not hear the appeal would have generated community backlash, but nothing like what we’ve seen the Board now in. The Board willingly put themselves into the gun sight. My instincts tell me that Board members have heard stories dating back to whenever. While they could have taken a pass, I honestly feel they want to do the right thing.

    I can’t imagine any scenario where the Board would support the investigation finding and subsequent administration decision to essentially terminate Crawford as volleyball coach. From a timing standpoint alone, one has to be intrigued by the decision to fire two administrators immediately before the hearing. Somebody has to take the fall for the $22k investigation expenditure. Maybe it was unrelated, but the timing, just before the hearing, is eye-catching if nothing else. My view is that the Board already tipped its hand on what the ruling will be.

    The Petersons have shown themselves to be steadfast in their position, even as their cause has lost all credibility. While the hearing may proceed as scheduled, I feel a rising notion that the Petersons will take a realistic assessment of their prospects next Thursday and cut their losses. There is much to be gained from the Peterson perspective for Rob to ask that his complaint be withdrawn and Crawford be restored to her coaching position. If the Peterson’s don’t, the Board will, and the Petersons are better off having some control on the outcome, and appear forgiving and magnanimous at the same time.

    1. iPad Guy

      I tend to agree with everything in all of your insightful evaluations. Sometimes, as with this one, it’s almost everything.

      How can Rob Peterson “withdraw” his formal complaint at this point? The district has investigated, made its finding and closed the case. I’d think Dr. Peterson’s options now don’t include the ability to force the district to ignore his past actions.

      How can the school district even consider making a complaint disappear after it’s determined to be legitimate–simply because massive public pressure drives a complainant back to “withdraw” his formal complaint? Why would any public body be allowed close out formal complaints by responding to public pressure that flies in the face of its own investigations? Would this also apply to formal complaints against police officers for alleged retaliation?

      It isn’t the “legitimacy and credibility” of the Petersons that the board gets to consider this week. It’s the actions of Coach Crawford and Administrator Roberson. As I see it, the only withdrawal that can keep the school board from having to make judgments on these two people would be a decision by Coach Peterson to withdraw her appeal.

      Even an attempt to withdraw his complaint would open Dr. Peterson to charges the his complaint was unfounded and verify all of the worst allegations against the daughter and the parents. A real withdrawal of her appeal would open Coach Crawford to suspicions that the 72-page report includes damning findings.

      Both parties are trapped in their existing narratives, I’d say, and neither can see a way out by taking one for the team. I don’t see how the Petersons can have any control over the board now, let alone find a way to come out perceived as “forgiving and magnanimous” in such a poisoned atmosphere.

      Wow, what a long way around for my basic question for you. Why do you think that Dr. Peterson has the ability or the right to withdraw his formal complaint now and, if he could, how do you think such an act would relieve the board in making its only tangentially related decision to overturn the DJUSD administration to hire someone other than Ms. Crawford?

      1. Phil Coleman

        Comment: “How can Rob Peterson “withdraw” his formal complaint at this point?”

        Peterson can’t withdraw the complaint, and that’s not what I said. I said Peterson could ASK the Board to withdraw his complaint. Peterson is not forcing the Board to do anything, except hear his request should he choose to approach the Board.

        Comment:”How can the school district even consider making a complaint disappear after it’s determined to be legitimate–simply because massive public pressure drives a complainant back to “withdraw” his formal complaint?”

        How about precedent for starters, very recent precedent. The Board not only considered the idea of making the complaint disappear, they shamelessly begged for it to occur. Board members unanimously wanted the complaint to disappear by having it shuffled to a mediator, you may recall. Nobody, including you, found fault with that proactive attempt by the Board to make this complaint disappear from their duty to act.

        We share the same sentiment that the Petersons will suffer should they request the withdrawal of the complaint against Crawford. Note my cutting-their-losses reference.

        However, I’m unable to follow the logic pattern that says Crawford would be opened up to suspicion that the investigation contains damaging material if the complaint were withdrawn. She’s already been damaged.

        A removal of the complaint would be seen more in the way of redemption and vindication in my analysis. But I’d enjoy hearing opposing discussion on that particular point.

        1. iPad Guy

          Got it, he can’t withdraw it, but can ASK that it be something-ed (ignored, maybe, destroyed, whatever.). I overlooked that distinction. However, that results in the board ignoring the administrator’s decision and the investigation report, which seems unlikely especially if there’s anything that would/should/could have board members thinking the administration decision was appropriate.

          Of course, any way it’s termed would result in the same public condemnation of the Peterson family, that the whole thing was a contrived set-up on their parts in the first place. (See The Vanguard, February-March 2014.)

          My problems with the idea being floated is that it’ll renew the same antagonism that has reigned if the incorrect assumption that the Peterson’s have any power left here and that Coach Crawford’s fate lies in the hands of the family rather than the school board.

          Even if there were a way to set aside the complaint, the board is left with its original package for consideration (the investigation, the administrator’s hiring decision and the coach’s response).

          I don’t see the Peterson family with any loss-cutting strategy at hand, except a finding from the school board that allows them to say they were kind of justified all along. Even that wouldn’t buy them a cup of coffee in this town after what we’ve been through.

          Don’t blame me for the board’s silly, inapplicable “precedent”! As I remember, there were at least two of us who were mystified by the plea, found it a hopeless proposal and thought the board was trying to abdicate its self-determined responsibility. I know I was one such. Weren’t you another?

          I’m sure you also misread another of my comments. Here it is: “A real withdrawal of her appeal would open Coach Crawford to suspicions that the 72-page report includes damning findings.”

          So, I see both parties without a way out. It’s a shame. The board is stuck with the same decision it had a couple weeks ago.

    2. Matt Williams

      Phil, how do you un-ring a bell once it is rung? Perry Mason taught us often and well that a Juge’s upholding of an objection in Court never completely clears the asked question from the Jury’s ears and minds.

  6. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > The tone and nature of her resignation signaled to
    > many that this battle is far from over.

    If Nancy really does care about her kids (and her husband) she will end this fight ASAP and let things start to heal. If she keeps the fight going her kids are going to take a lot of heat and I can’t see anyone in town wanting to go near the doctor who’s crazy wife keeps running up legal bills for the school district…

    P.S. I think David meant to write: : “Nancy Peterson climbed onto a “PLANE”, flashed the piece sign”

  7. Mr. Toad

    One thing I don’t understand. Is there some reason the board is taking so long to act? As the Gilardi’s pointed out couldn’t they have simply restored the coach? Doing so pending the appeal would have taken much heat out of the kettle. Short of that why did they push pause for two weeks?

          1. wdf1

            I thought I understood that they moved the appeal by a week to see if the parties might accept mediation.

        1. iPad Guy

          Why would Ms. Peterson be able to get within 100 feet of the report? She recused herself from the board deliberations before the others voted to consider Coach Crawford’s appeal of the administration decision not to hire her for the boys team coach job. Even the original complainant, Dr. “Arm’s Length” Peterson, doesn’t get to read the confidential investigation report.

  8. TrueBlueDevil

    David, have they been reading and digesting this 72-page report the past week? And do you know if it’s true that Coach Crawford and her staff gave little to no input during the “investigation”?

    Additional questions for the gallery.

    Is it possible that the Peterson’s will divulge the alleged Nasty emails? If there were nasty grams sent to Nancy Peterson’s personal email account from a current or former coach, as a private citizen, isn’t she free to release them?

    The cost of this investigation was produced very quickly. Why the delay in releasing the cost / length of the investigation spurred by Ms. Leigh Whitmire Choate’s complaint?

    Who budgeted 100 hours for this investigation? And is it a common practice in a “fair” system to (allegedly) have little or no input from one of the main character’s, Coach Crawford?

    Someone previously had a question about Matt Best – Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources & Secondary Education – and his second job. He works for the Buck Institute for Education on their national faculty. His Linkedin states: “Provide district and site leadership trainings [sic] promoting the effective implementation of Project-based Learning.”

    1. David Greenwald

      I was told by Gina Daleiden early on, they would have to come into the office and read the report there, it could not leave with them. I don’t know if that has happened yet and I know know specifics about it.

  9. iPad Guy

    “The question will be – will the board see the issue as community members and supporters of Ms. Crawford do or will they ultimately uphold the findings of the Alexander Sperry report? That answer will largely determine whether this issue goes away after Thursday or whether it continues to fester.”


    This is not the question facing the board. Your either-or decision is not the one they’ll be making.

    The board still faces its original, simple task–whether to overturn Winfred Roberson’s decision not to hire Coach Crawford again for this season. It is the coach’s appeal of that administration decision that’s on their agenda.

    The investigation report simply is one piece of “evidence,” not something that will get “upheld” by the board.

    A side dilemma they face is what to do if they find the investigation report compelling on the retaliation matter: Will they see the issue as some of Ms. Crawford do, “I don’t care what’s in the report”?

    I’m not sure how anyone benefits from yet another, nasty round of public lashings of Nancy Peterson. I guess comparing her “voluntary resignation” to President Nixon’s might be a little funny. Tossing the image into today’s raw feelings is consistent with the way the forum has been used for two weeks, but surely doesn’t advance the recent initiatives for mediation and healing.

    I wonder if The Vanguard might have made a strategic mistake by focusing the public ire on Ms. Peterson’s actions last year rather than keeping the board’s present responsibility on the front burner.

    You met your stated objective, Nancy Peterson’s resignation. Now, you’re stuck trying to explain why the last two weeks of pressure on the Peterson family has been of little value in getting Coach Crawford rehired.

    The anger always was misapplied to the task at hand, but it was successful at getting Ms. Peterson out of her elected trustee position.

    At least, we don’t have to keep hearing about the other Vanguard insistence, that the board needs to be taking the unlikely step of censuring a member for pulling a consent item and for announcing her opinions about an employee in public.

    Our long, municipal nightmare is not over. However, Ms. Peterson gets to walk away from the public impeachment hearings.

  10. Mr. Toad

    i think they need to decide two things:

    1. Did the coach retaliate against the kid because of the mom?

    2. Did the coaches actions warrant removing her from her coaching position?

  11. iPad Guy

    I agree that these two simple questions point to the decision facing the board, even though we don’t know retaliation finding is the only thing the administration considered in its decision.

    However, I think that a third question has entered the public debate.

    If the unequivocal answer to #1 is “yes” and the unequivocal answer to #2 is “yes,” will the board overturn Winfred Roberson’s decision?

  12. Problem Is

    Any of these school board members who think they are going to receive my vote for current or higher office…

    I take a dim view of political ladder climbers that have demonstrated lack of leadership, crony protectionism of another politico aka a fellow board member, and fiscal irresponsibility with $22k of public funds like it is nothing. All of this with out a word except we can’t say anything.

    I have seen no evidence to refute the above conclusions that I have. If more FACTS and TRUTH become available, I will reassess my position accordingly. I will base any and all conclusions on the facts and facts only and not partisan slogans or fallacy of argument hackery.

    None of you running for office, high or low, have yet earned my vote in this election year of 2014.

    1. Matt Williams

      P.I., I encourage you to come to the Robb Davis Fundraiser this Thursday from 6:00 to 8:00. When you meet and talk to Robb, I believe your universe of zero will increment up to one.

      He got my vote the old fashioned way. He earned it.

      P.S. He is at the Farmers Market every Saturday and will be glad to sit down with you and listen to your concerns.

  13. iPad Guy

    Viewing tip: The most interesting and informative discussion of this evening appears in the comments section quite a few stories back:

    It is tonight’s exchange between TrueBlueDevil and Leigh Choate in which TBD asks for examples of Nancy Peterson’s “micromanaging and meddling” (bottom of the page).

    If you miss this because it’s buried in an old story, you’ll be completely lacking in the true perspective needed for this whole scandal. It’s definitely worth your while to track down this conversation.

    Some things immediately jump out. First, the utter pettiness of the issues that dragged the parties into apparent open warfare. Second, the minimal effort that one would think would have been required to bring each of the disputes to a clear resolution. Third, the observation that the athletic director, the principal and the district administrator were aware of and involved as each of the dramas played out.

    It would be as funny as an episode of “The Housewives of ______” reality shows if it hadn’t played out in such a massively sad way. Now that these minor episodes have exploded into a major district disaster, is there much hope that the school board will be able to fix things?

    1. Matt Williams

      iPG, having read that discussion, and one thing that I came away with was that your words, “the utter pettiness of the issues that dragged the parties into apparent open warfare” appears to be spot on. There is an abundance of “dirty fingerprints” from all the parties to this warfare.

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