Sunday Commentary: The Culpability of the Davis School Board

Board Member Gina Daleiden (left) lays out board procedure as Sheila Allen (far left), Tim Taylor (right) and Nancy Peterson (far right) look on.
Board Member Gina Daleiden (left) lays out board procedure as Sheila Allen (far left), Tim Taylor (right) and Nancy Peterson (far right) look on.

Ever since the board issued its statement on Thursday, I have heard people criticize the board for not going far enough, criticize them for offering mediation, etc.

The statement, delivered by Board President Gina Daleiden and agreed to by Sheila Allen, Tim Taylor and Susan Lovenburg, with Nancy Peterson recused, read as follows, “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, 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,” Ms. Daleiden concluded.

Bob Dunning writes in his column this morning, “TRANSLATION: We’re tired of taking the heat for this pissing match and embarrassed about the dramatic waste of taxpayer dollars. At first blush, telling the two warring parties to hire a mediator sounds like a good idea. Let them hammer it out and see if they can’t all kiss and make up. But in reality what we have here is a complete abdication of responsibility by the Davis school board, which was elected to make decisions large and small. And sometimes difficult.”

He adds, “After spending $22,000 of our money for a report that didn’t solve anything, they’re now willing to chuck that very report and accept instead the decision of a mediator hired by the combatants themselves.”

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 urged patience.

The board is actually in a far more precarious position than Bob Dunning or others wish to believe.

Board President Gina Daleiden repeatedly used the term “quasi-judicial process” to describe the appeal, and whether they really are four judges, as she contends, that need to remain neutral is at least a debatable contention.

However, to my knowledge, the board has yet to read the investigator’s report, they have yet to have a full-closed session discussion amongst the four of them.  Based on this, based on the potential for lawsuit, it seems practical and wise that the board reserves full judgment until they have all of the facts at hand.

Perhaps I read the statement that came out of closed session differently than others, but what I see them saying is Nancy Peterson, quit dragging your personal agenda into school board meetings, it is costing the district and board time and money and you really have a personal issue with Julie Crawford that you need to address elsewhere.

Some people believe that this has moved past the realm of mediation.  I do not share that view.  After all, if Sujatha Baliga, the keynote speaker at the 2013 Davis MLK Day event, can work with the grieving family whose daughter was murdered by her fiancé and bring them together with the offender, there is hope for reconciling differences in a coach-student athlete-school board member dispute.  (See the 2013 New York Times article for that remarkable story).

Last year we did a story about the former Davis High School Vice Principal who helped implement a restorative justice approach to school discipline at the Davis High School.  While Sheila Smith has moved on, the program she helped set up remains.

We of course also have the DA’s Neighborhood Courts program as an example of a successful mediation program at a limited level, as the DA has only on a few occasions had an actual victim participate.

Aside from the promise of community-based restorative justice approaches are some plain and simple facts.

First, the school board here has far more limited power than anyone would like to believe.  While they can suggest mediation, they lack the ability to actually order anyone to undertake it.

Second, the board believes that until they hear the appeal, they have to remain impartial which means that a whole range of more punitive measures and/or stronger wording of condemnation have to wait.

Third, even when the board does hear the appeal, their ability is very limited.  Censure has no binding action attached to it.  It is not as though they can vote to remove the board member as the legislature can, or vote a member off the island as you can on a certain popular reality show.

Fourth, the call for mediation also carries with it an implicit recognition that this is a broader conflict than the instant issue.  The war probably will not end with the board’s vote over the complaint and the appeal.

There could be additional appeals, additional litigation.  Mediation is a way for the parties to reach a resolution that stops the fighting.

Bob Dunning writes, “Put simply, the school board is ducking its responsibility by refusing to make the hard decision, instead hoping to pawn the whole thing off on a private mediator, who also lacks authority to make school policy.”

The question is what is the board’s hard decision – they are either going to rule to uphold the judgment against Julie Crawford or overturn it.  The board’s point would be that that won’t end this problem.

Short of one side or the other unilaterally disarming, ultimately the strongest authority is not the board, but the voters.  The voters have a chance to end this through a recall process of Nancy Peterson.  Otherwise, the appeals process will come and go, and the problem will remain.

The place where the board appears more culpable was back in July.

Nancy Peterson was 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.”

Even here I will defend the board somewhat.  In hindsight, it was clear that Ms. Peterson, making the statement that she did, inflamed an already volatile situation and that led to the second round of the controversy.

So, what should the school board have done in real time?  In hindsight the obvious answer would have been to stop the proceeding and tell Ms. Peterson that her comment was inappropriate, given that this was a personnel matter; it was a highly personal comment that was not the purview of her role as school board member, and that such rhetoric was likely to inflame the situation.

In real time, the board probably was hoping that the vote was enough to put the issue to rest and they were best advised to let sleeping dogs lie, hoping that if Nancy Peterson got this off her chest, perhaps they could move on.

In retrospect, that was the wrong decision, but it was difficult to predict at the time that this would repeat itself in the future.

The board will have to grapple with this issue, as well.  In the future, the board obviously understands the need to spell out into policy, going forward, situations that may arise where a conflict emerges.

This is not going to be a simple black and white issue and Nancy Peterson herself does grave disservice to it when she writes:

“Should I have recused myself from voting on the volleyball coaching contract because my child had a history there? Well, my children have histories in football and basketball, too. They also have long histories in countless classes at Montgomery Elementary, Da Vinci, Harper, Pioneer and Davis High.

“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?

“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.”

As a commenter on the Enterprise site, James Williams, notes, “You are attempting to simplify this into black-and-white rules about conflict of interest in an attempt to convince readers that it would be absurd to recuse yourself because of any personal involvement with an issue.”

“This is not a valid argument. It is the specific level of personal involvement and tone which needs to be considered in determining a conflict of interest,” he writes. “To say that you had a child attend Davis High School and therefore you should recuse yourself from voting on all issues pertaining to DHS would be absurd.”

“However,” he continues, “to say that you had a long history of personal disagreements with the coach of two of your children with no resolution, then you absolutely should not have taken any action as a trustee regarding the VSA for that coach. Dumbing down the issue of recusing in light of conflicts of interest is insulting to the readers of this piece. Obviously it takes an intelligent consideration of each issue and not some over-simplified formulaic rule.”

Mr. Williams eloquently highlights three problems: (1) Nancy Peterson’s lack of introspection; (2) the complexity of the issue of conflict, especially as it regards canonizing it; and (3) the difficulty the board will have to enforce it in the future.

The legal standard is that individuals will ultimately decide if they can be impartial and, if that’s the case, Nancy Peterson would never have taken the opportunity to recuse herself even under new rules.  Now the school district’s attorney can at least point out the potential for conflict and Ms. Peterson did recuse herself from ruling over the appeal of her family’s own complaint.

The bottom line is that there is a clear problem, and the board has to take clear action of some sort.  I am willing to wait two weeks for this entire drama to reach its conclusion before I judge the actions of the other four board members.

I still believe that a restorative approach might be best.  As Sujatha Baliga said in Davis back in January 2013, “Restorative justice asks a very different set of questions.  It asks what harm was done, what needs have arisen, and whose obligation is it to meet those needs?”

I would argue that it is these questions with which we must all grapple, and these questions for which the current system will provide no satisfactory answers.

—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. Adam Smith

    Can someone please enlighten me as to how the Peterson’s and Crawford can now resolve this issue, given what I believe to be the relevant facts:

    1. A complaint was lodged, which resulted in an investigation.
    2. Based on the findings of the investigation, the on-site administration decided to not renew Crawford’s contract.
    3. Crawford has appealed the non-renewal decision to the School Board.

    Seems to me that only Crawford can make this go away by canceling her appeal. The Peterson’s could remove the complaint, but it wouldn’t change the findings of the investigation, which provided the information for the on-site administration to decide to not renew.

    1. David Greenwald

      The district would be a third-party participant in any mediation and would have to agree to the terms of any resolution as at least as far as it involved the district.

      1. hpierce

        I believe you are missing Adam’s point… the student athlete cannot have her senior season restored… the district either has to declare a vote of no confidence in its own administration, or affirm a decision that probably never should have been faced. Horse is out of the barn. Now all that remains is to clean up the manure. I see no REAL way to bring ‘restorative justice’ into play.

  2. growth issue

    Dunning is right, “After spending $22,000 of our money for a report that didn’t solve anything, they’re now willing to chuck that very report and accept instead the decision of a mediator hired by the combatants themselves.”

    It’s gone way too far to let any mediation decision settle this now. Once the report was made and Crawford was released of her coaching position a decision has to be made one way or the other by the school board. Can the school board let a coach keep her coaching job if she truly did retaliate against a student? Or, if it’s determined that Crawford did nothing wrong should some action be taken against Nancy Peterson

    1. David Greenwald

      It is not correct that it has gone too far for mediation to settle this, mediation is often used to settle far more serious conflicts that have gone much further. As I stated in response to Adam Smith, the district would be a third-party and would have to agree to the terms of any resolution as at least as far as it involved the district. Moreover, mediation can resolve the portions of this dispute that the district’s process cannot.

      “Once the report was made and Crawford was released of her coaching position a decision has to be made one way or the other by the school board. “

      That is not true. My understanding is if all three parties agree – the complaint and appeal could be dismissed.

      “Can the school board let a coach keep her coaching job if she truly did retaliate against a student?”

      The mediation would evaluate the harm that was done and the remedy to it. In a restorative process, it is possible that they would find an alternate way to deal with the harm than dismissal or an alternate way to deal with Peterson’s actions that action again her. The key would be all there parties would have to agree.

      1. growth issue

        David, didn’t you say that the wording in the $22,000 report leads to a conclusive finding? How can the board now in all good conscious let a coach keep their job if they have a report in hand that shows that the coach did indeed retaliate against a student?
        Or, vice versa, if determined said coach didn’t retaliate how can the board not take some action against a trustee who has now twice, directly or indirectly, tried to get a coach removed from their position and was overruled by their fellow trustees?
        IMO, at this point you can’t just sweep this under the rug. This same coach will be coaching other future athletes just as this same trustee will be making decisions on other future coaches. If one or the other aren’t fit for their position the school board needs to step up and take action. Isn’t that part of the school board’s responsiblities, to protect both the students and teachers?

        1. David Greenwald

          What if there are extentuating circumstances that led to her decision?

          Bottom line is that you’re asking the wrong questions, you may end up in the same place we are with the mediation, you may not. What do you have to lose?

          1. iPad Guy

            You should answer the question that you, yourself, raised. Perhaps, the world will come to an end this Wednesday. What “extenuating circumstances” could justify overturning the administration’s decisions and the investigation’s conclusions?

            Kissing off a legitimate question as the “bottom line wrong one” just suggests that someone continues to ignore the considerations attached to it. Wouldn’t it be more productive to answer, then explain why it’s not that important.

            Obviously, I think this a critical question facing the board.

          2. David Greenwald

            I don’t understand why you want the answers before we go through the process. It’s possible that end up in the same place we are now and that the board on March 13 or another date will have to make a decision. It’s also possible that they will reach an accord on their own for another solution. This has to be a three-party mediation, I don’t think I made that clear enough in the essay, but the district clearly would have to approve of any agreement. And yes, I’m dodging your question.

          3. iPad Guy

            Okay, I think I get it. Even though the four board members want to put this whole thing on the Crawford-Peterson parties and not have to act in any way (including financial) themselves, you’re calling on them to stop the process in its tracks. And, ignore the “evidence” they’re going to be stuck with when the meet in closed session.

            Of course, they would have to assume a lot in order to avoid facing what they face. Once past that, maybe they could get final agreements from three parties. One thought, better involve fully the DJUSD administrator whose decision is being appealed

            Thanks for explaining why this is a “no questions (to be) asked” approach.

          4. iPad Guy

            If you’re talking about the statement that begged the two parties to hire a facilitator (something you identified as a clear rebuke of one side), I don’t think that came close to “offering this up themselves.”

            You’ve come up with a nice alternative to the present process and to the two-party, self-paid mediation the board offered up.

            I don’t think your option has a prayer, primarily because the administration, the coach and the parent involved are just fine leaving the resolution to the board (with the understanding that one or more of the parties will get to bitch about the decision in perpetuity).

            Also, the amount of prep work described by Robb, Tia and you would delay board action longer than the public could tolerate. I don’t think the community is patient enough for the board to delay the decision again.

          5. Matt Williams

            Also, the amount of prep work described by Robb, Tia and you would delay board action longer than the public could tolerate. I don’t think the community is patient enough for the board to delay the decision again.

            Another factor in the timing of this issue is that a delay will put it front and center during the heart of the June election. The issues that already are going to be front and center in June (water … sales tax … Council … deficit … transparency … Assembly … firefighter staffing … pensions … post-employment benefits) will only become more complex if governance, abuse of power and volleyball are actively part of that same electoral mix.

        2. hpierce

          Sorry, if the Board ignores the recommendation/action of the highest administrators, that calls into question THEIR actions/inactions. This is what I believe is called a “sticky wicket”. I believe there will be no ‘winners’ in this. The question is, how many ‘losers’ will there be.

      1. Tia Will

        To hpierce and all of those who feel that this has “gone too far for mediation” I believe that your opinion rests in a framework of “winners and losers” which is very common in our “winner take all ” culture. But, I do not believe that this is the only framework, or the best framework for conflict resolution. It is based on the belief that one has to “go to the mat” for their own position instead of being able to sincerely say “we have made mistakes and our mistakes have harmed our children, our selves, and our community”. Let’s start over and try to settle this in an amicable fashion. I happen to believe in redemption of previous errors and I believe as long as both parties are alive, it is never too late.

        As for the “more likely than not statement” it is a matter of judgement, not an absolute and the school board of course has the option of accepting some, all or none of the findings.

        Costly, yes. Definitive, no. I am with David on this one. I think the Board is headed, albeit belatedly, in the right direction and that his should be allowed to play out.

        1. iPad Guy

          I’d say it’s not some cultural failing that leads to such conclusions, but a reluctant acceptance that the organization is stuck dealing with an inadequate (but well defined) process that is about to come crashing in a way that will satisfy almost no one.

  3. David Greenwald

    There appears to be some confusion here. This is not arbitration. The parties would would be carefully prepared with pre-meeting caucuses. It may become evident early on that the facilitated conversations may not lead to a face to face conference in which case the matter could be returned to the School Board. However, providing a chance for both sides to name the harms and seek to have the harms made as right as possible has absolutely NO downside. If it does not work they can return to the appeal process.

      1. David Greenwald

        The district would be part of the process. In the mediation in Florida, the state prosecutor was one of the parties involved in the mediation.

    1. Robb Davis

      I concur with David on what he has written.

      I very much appreciate what the School Board members are trying to do in encouraging a facilitated conversation between the parties.

      There are skilled facilitators in this community (Neighborhood Court facilitators have the requisite skills as do others) who could offer their services to a process to name harms and the needs arising from them and seek an agreement to make the harms right.

      It is never too late to seek to restore broken relationships–even in a situation as seemingly intractable as this one. After all, restorative justice HAS been used in even capital cases as David points out and in much lesser offenses. A process COULD look like this (though this is not the only way it could happen):

      1. The parties agree to meet independently with a facilitator or a team of facilitators. “Parties” here could include the disputants but also the School Board members, administrators and even students. The focus could be on the two main disputants to begin with, however, and it may never go beyond that. The reason for bringing others in is because the harms in this situation arguably extend beyond the two parties.

      2. The only commitments in the initial meetings would be to confidentiality and to discussing the harms each has experienced. The goal of the initial meetings would also be to begin to explore the possibility of a face to face or a series of face to face meetings.

      3. The facilitator or facilitator team would help each party determine whether or not an eventual face to face might work for the purpose of naming harms experienced, listening to the harms experienced by the other, expressing the needs that result from these harms and beginning a discussion of how the harms might be made right and the needs met. If it becomes clear that one or both parties are unwilling or unable to go in that direction the process would end and the appeals process would go forward. If, after one or more individual “caucuses” the parties agree that a face to face could achieve useful outcomes the facilitator(s) would arrange that.

      4. A direct conference would be facilitated with clear ground rules and the agreed expectation that an agreement can be reached. The agreement may or may not involve formal action by the school district but if it did then representatives of the district could be brought into the discussion to discuss the agreement.

      5. Further direct conferences with one or more parties could be added to allow School Board, administrators or student representatives the opportunity to name the harms they have experienced. Further needs stemming from the harms could be named and dealt with.

      At this point the only significant roadblock to this process taking root (and again, it may quickly go no where and in such a case the process would revert to the appeal process at the Board level), is that both parties no doubt feel isolated, fearful and doubtful that their dignity and needs will be respected. This is why an initial caucus or set of caucuses with individual parties and a facilitator are critical.

      The isolation they feel means that someone may need to reach out to them an offer a way forward. As a community we can play a role in offering that safe place to start and it would be fairly straightforward to find a volunteer facilitator if both parties are willing to test this approach. I would urge those with relationships with either party to reach out to them and perhaps communicate with a neutral party such as a local pastor or rabbi about their intent. I offer my email address only as a clearing house and because I can contact local facilitators who may be willing to offer their services to the process. I am not a facilitator but would be open to others contacting me to move the process forward.

      1. hpierce

        I respect your concept, but just don’t see how things can be “restored”, in this particular situation. Someone(s) would need to offset at least some of the costs of the investigation, and appeal process, make up for the additional staff costs, loss of reputations, etc. I may be proven wrong, but I can’t envision a scenario where everyone isn’t still “injured”.

        1. David Greenwald

          I would suggest start by forgetting about costs. If we can resolve this situation the costs I think are going to be well worth it because they’ll prevent future costs. If you start in that place then I think you can approach this from the proper perspective. If your only concern is the district recouping its costs it’s just not can happen under any circumstance.

      2. iPad Guy

        “After all, restorative justice HAS been used in even capital cases as David points out and in much lesser offenses.”

        I’m with hpierce about respecting your concept, but don’t under how it could be applied in some timely manner here. This isn’t a capital case–some have suggested that it’s much ado about insignificant matters–but there is not agreement on what crime has been committed and by whom. How can restorative justice processes advance when both parties are insistent that each is the only aggrieved party?

        The school board soon will decide in a way that sort of labels one party more aggrieved than the other. Will their be an easier resotriative justice avenue after the crime and criminal get clarified?

        1. Robb Davis

          iPad Guy – I offer no guarantees. Entering an RJ process merely opens the door for mutual learning. One thing that can and does happen in RJ processes is that learning occurs. I learn how you experience something and the harms it causes you and vice-versa. My point about “capital” offenses is merely to point out that even in the worst most intractable problems these approaches can and have been used.

          I think it is important to point out the RJ will not necessarily “solve” everything nor does it promise that things will somehow magically be “undone”. Rather, it looks forward to the possibility of making harms right–creating accountability among those involved and restoring relationships so the individuals and community can move forward.

          It is somewhat amazing to me that given how things have gone to date we would be unwilling to try a different path. Like I said, no guarantees, but perhaps a breakthrough that will enable everyone to move on and experience a different way of dealing with conflict in our community. The status quo is not providing the ends we need.

      3. Grassroots

        Robb and David thanks for taking this idea forward. What helps the RJ process is to start with a win-win choice. The 2 parties should be offered the opportunity to engage in restorative justice with no lost of employment to Coach Crawford and no lost of Board position to Nancy Peterson. Either or both could choose to leave their position but that would be their call. There would be a time limit to implement the agreement to fix the harms done on both sides. Critical people from the community, effected by this conflict, would be a part of the process. The fix it is under the consensus rule. A monitor would be appointed to ensure the agreement was implemented.

        If the parties choose not to do this, then, they would go through the legal win-lose process.

  4. PhilColeman

    Since Ms. Crawford filed the appeal, only she has the ability to withdraw it. Similarly, Crawford would have to agree with the notion of a mediator coming in. She gains no advantage in submitting to a mediation process, only further delay. What Ms. Crawford is seeking is vested only in the Board’s authority. Even a mediator recommendation favorable to Crawford is advisory and not binding.

    The Board can’t delegate or transfer their hearing of an appeal to anybody else. There is no provision in District policy that allows this, nor does current policy permit the Board to introduce a mediator into this stage of the proceedings. The Board’s public cry for mediation appears to be code for somebody to withdraw a complaint, or somebody else to resign.

      1. iPad Guy

        Who is making such a claim from either a matter of fact or a from practical standpoint? Why would the board be insisting that the teacher and parents pay for mediation if the board would be a participating party?

      2. PhilColeman

        “What was explained to me.” ??? The explanation received may be wishful thinking, but it is not an option unless the Board is willing to blatantly violate its own rules.

        The Board cannot abdicate its charged obligation to hear Crawford’s appeal. It cannot summarily “enact” an agreed upon proposal determined by an individual or body that assumes Board authority and responsibility. The Board can, and has, urged a mediation side-show, but Crawford has to participate, which she won’t. Ultimately the Board HAS to hear, and rule, on the appeal.

        The only way the Board can dodge this bullet is to have the appeal withdrawn. And as previously stated, the appellant has no incentive to agree to mediation and certainly no incentive to withdraw the appeal.

    1. hpierce

      Am thinking, at the end of the day, and although I’m just as curious as you, it REALLY DOESN’T MATTER. At this point, it is what it is, background would be great for those of us who love history, but information posted on this site must not be a part of the process that has begun, and needs to play out. Then we can all “Monday-morning quarterback”.

  5. SODA

    Afraid I agree with Dunning this time; as I said late yesterday, perhaps mediation would resolve the rancor and issues between Crawford and the Petersons, HOWEVER this whole mess has identified several larger process , ethical and role definitions of the Board and District which need to be addressed. I suggest the Board begin to examine those before another similar athletic or academic situation occurs. AND the Board needs to follow their own policy of complaint assessment and decision, not punt. I would have been happier if the Board had urged mediation for the parties WHILE continuing their duty to hear and decide the complaint. That is what I am sure will happen, it just came across weak the way it was said, as though mediation was all that was needed.

    1. iPad Guy

      I think SODA’s agreement with Dunning makes sense. I do think the board’s decision will have to come down to what they’re presented in the appeal, how the administration justifies its original decision and what a through reading of the investigation report reveals.

      The board didn’t have to hear an appeal, I guess, but they’ve voted to. Now, they just have to decide and the sooner, the better.

      Another thing than never will go away is the need to fix the broken process that SODA mentions. The sooner, the better here too, but the fixes need to be much more than the cosmetic, word-smithing going on at the last board meeting. Phil Coleman and Robb Davis would be excellent people to have in the room while some serious work is going on.

  6. Don Shor

    I think mediation is pointless now, especially since it is clear one party believes herself to be entirely in the right and continues to make public statements. The school board needs to get out front on this issue. I’m afraid mediation would fail to resolve the damage done to process and policy by the actions of the school board member.

    There has been considerable harm to the district overall. Coaches across the district, I imagine, are livid about this. Their job is difficult enough in picking rosters and evaluating players. Now every action they take involving any child of a board member or major donor will be subject to second-guessing. And it will be hard for any student athlete from such a family to feel that he or she has truly earned a spot.

    The district needs to review the athletic program management procedures. The board needs to censure one of its members. That member should resign immediately.

    This is also, very likely, harming the candidacy of Sheila Allen. Suddenly tenure on the school board isn’t the best thing to have on your resumé as you seek higher office.

    1. SODA

      Well said Don. Think Sheila should sit this one out….maybe next time will be a better time for her and she can become more versed on the city issues….

    2. hpierce

      Definitely pointless… Ms Peterson writes … “when I ACCEPTED this position…” VERY contrived, as she SOUGHT the position, and spent her and her supporters’ money to achieve it. She says the matter was not ‘researched’ because Dunning, et al., did not talk to her… I guess she owns the “truth”, and it cannot be ascertained without her input… scary.

      She didn’t ‘vote the wrong way’… what she did do was to pull a routine matter from the consent calendar, in public, to try to convince the rest of the board to vote her (“right”?) way. She could have just registered a “no” vote on that item, without ‘pulling’ it, or once she had a copy of the agenda, talked to the Superintendent to see if it could be deferred. She did neither. We need to move on, without a trustee whining.

    3. Hamish

      Don, Thank you for weighing in here with helpful and insightful comments. I agree with all your points. Surely this will harm the candidacy of Sheila Allen, but shouldn’t her performance on the school board be fair game in terms of our understanding her ability to serve on the city council? What better predictor of her ability to weigh different kinds of input and to make sound decisions on our behalf?

      In fact, whatever one may think of Nancy Peterson, the other four board members should have made an issue of her voting last year on the coach of her own children’s teams. That was an obvious conflict of interest, and all those board members should have seen that and acted appropriately (even the guy who conveniently seems to be unavailable each time there’s a difficult vote!).

      To me, it’s less shocking that one aggressive person can drive a personal agenda to the point of absurdity than it is to realize how her fellow board members allowed this nonsense to go on, evidently lacking the spine to stand up to her personal crusade against a winning, popular, and positively-reviewed coach.

  7. DT Businessman

    It is readily apparent that three distinct issues have been exposed albeit with quite a bit of overlap between the three:

    1. The Petersons/Crawford dispute.
    2. District administration ability to manage challenges and conflict, how it interacts with its board, employees, and the public.*
    3. Board’s ability to manage challenges and conflict, how it interacts with its administrators, the public, between board members, employees, etc.*

    #2 and #3 are clearly multi-faceted and were not created by #1; rather, are long standing problems that have been exposed by #1. The combination of the three problems has resulted in a perfect storm that is causing increasing harm to the district. The three problems are unlikely to be resolved by any one remedy. Each of the problems requires a separate set of solutions. It’s hard to imagine mediation does anything to resolve #2 and #3. Whether it can do anything for problem #1 I’ll leave to the experts to comment on.

    *One can argue that the City has been grappling with similar issues.

    -Michael Bisch

    1. Tia Will


      I largely agree with your three issue analysis. However, I would like to add a further dimension to your number 1.

      The Crawford – Peterson issue is not unique. There have been parent- coach/teacher disputes in the past and there will be in the future. This one just happens to be particularly messy because of the public standing of one of the participants. What I see as one of the major benefits of some kind of restorative justice approach such as proposed by Robb Davis is not only the possibility of addressing the recent and ongoing conflict, but of setting an example/precedent for future such conflicts. If attempting this approach failed, no harm done. If successful, it would have the possibility of averting or at least limiting the damage of future conflicts of this type.

    2. Robb Davis

      I will note Michael that one of the outcomes of the Neighborhood Court process is the potential to begin to name and understand the full extent of systemic problems in the community. You participated in the brown bag last week on the systemic issues related to alcohol abuse in the community. Many stakeholders were brought around the table by Judith MacBrine to discuss these issues. Judith learned of and began to consider the nature of the systemic problems as a result of going through a restorative justice process. RJ processes are learning processes that enable the community to learn about broader challenges as well as holding offenders accountable.

      I can provide examples flowing from the alcohol experience that illustrate this point.

  8. iPad Guy

    The problems with this latest rehash urging patience is that it comes two weeks late to be credible and that the supposed support for mediation obviously is based on the desire for certain outcome. It reflects a desperate flailing about, hoping to go one direction when events long since have built a track headed another way.

    The result David and the other most expressive anti-Peterson folks seek is an overturning the administration’s decision not to rehire this coach.

    Of course, the school board cannot ignore everything that’s gone on before, especially the investigation report. The board has to decide on the coach’s appeal as long as it’s pending.

    And, there is nothing Dr. Peterson can do that will relieve the four members of their task–to deal with Coach Crawford’s appeal.

    It’s difficult to understand President Gina Daleiden’s announcement (and the insistence that the two parties pay the bills). But, the assertion that she issued the call for mediation to target only the side that cannot have any effect on board’s decision seems a little ludicrous.

    One scenario could end the board’s current dilemma: Coach Crawford withdraws her appeal. The board is off the hook. The investigation report with its negative conclusions about the coach’s actions stays locked up. The administration doesn’t have to justify its interesting decision to keep a teacher upon whom its investigation has called such a serious foul. The coach gets sympathy and credit for taking one for the team, the school, the district and the community–all the things we’ve been demanding from the Peterson family for two weeks.

    Then, the two parties go into mediation with the district paying (since cost no longer is to be an issue, I understand). And the school board goes on a weeklong, facilitated retreat to heal whatever pains the five of them have suffered.

    This modest proposal takes care of everyone except the student who doesn’t get back her opportunity to play with her team because retaliation drove the decision to cut her, according to the $22,000 outside investigation. Since the administration’s testimony and the report itself become moot, however, she becomes the unredeemed casualty of the events and the vicious commentary. She never can be made whole. Is there a place fore restorative justice for the person who is the supposed central focus of the whole matter?

    1. hpierce

      In your 6th paragraph, it seems that you will not be satisfied with anything less than Coach Crawford’s removal from coaching, AND her dismissal from the district. Am I reading too much into that?

      1. iPad Guy

        I thought I typed “Not at all.” How it turned to “What too much.” Is a mix of spell check and no proof reading. Anyway, however the four board members decide is fine with me. I don’t envy them, having determine the biggest loser.

      2. iPad Guy

        So, hpierce, upon rereading my comment and clarifications, I see why my point might have gotten lost. You read way too much into my description of what scenario is the only one that can relieve the school board of their duty to decide. But, that’s probably because I tried to extend the scenario and mull over how the decision to withdraw the appeal might play out.

        I didn’t intend to suggest that Coach Crawford should withdraw or to suggest how the board should make the call. The point is that no action by Dr. Peterson can relieve the board of its need to act.

        I’ve always viewed this in fairly simple terms:

        1. President Sheila Allen was out of line in not taking the board into executive session to conduct discussion of the consent calendar personnel item.

        2. Nancy Peterson was out of line in making a public pronouncement about her vote against overturning the decision not go rehire Coach Crawford the first time.

        3. Coach Crawford was out of line in cutting a player if it was done in any part to retaliate against Nancy Peterson’s public or private complaints about her.

        4. Administrator Roberson decided not to rehire the at-will coach, the coach has appealed the decision and the board has agreed to decide whether to sustain the appeal, with Nancy Peterson recusing herself. Nothing in #4 is out of line.

        There’s pretty general agreement on #1 and #2. While the “if” in #3 might have been answered for the administration, the investigators and the complainant, it’s not a satisfactory situation for the coach and her supporters.

        I see all of the other discussion beyond these clear basics as diversionary and pretty useless to the task at hand, as well as unhelpfully inflammatory. Even the challenges to the investigation itself are pretty meaningless since none of us know what the investigation report says or how much weight the administration gave it in deciding to “go another direction.”

        Simple. The board just has to decide what to do. Since I don’t have the information the board members will have at hand, I don’t have an opinion on what’s “the right decision.”

        1. Don Shor

          I’ve always viewed this in fairly simple terms

          As James Williams said in the Enterprise: “The public recognizes that there would be no basis for retaliation had you not acted inappropriately in your role as trustee, and therefore you created the situation in which the complaint could be filed. Essentially, had it not been for your poor judgment in February through July 2013, there would have been no basis for a retaliation complaint.”

          1. iPad Guy

            True, I guess, by definition. And, there would have been no basis for a retaliation complaint if there had been no retaliation in violation of school policy, either.

            Both are a requirement, but one doesn’t excuse or justify the other. Neither should have happened.

            Simple, eh?

          2. Don Shor

            No, sorry. From everything that has been said, the onus is on the board member on this. Misuse of position. To the detriment of the board’s reputation, the district, and the students, not to mention egregious harm to the coach’s reputation and the athletic program in general.

          3. iPad Guy

            “From everything that has been said, the onus is on the board member on this….”

            I’m not sure what to make of this. Have you not been reading The Enterprise?

            Or, are you saying the following could not be true? Or, that if true but that doesn’t matter? Or, that it’s fine to cut a student-athlete if her mother is offensive enough?

            “Sperry’s conclusion — which was detailed in a Dec. 17 letter from Best to Rob Peterson — was that ‘more likely than not, Coach Crawford’s decision to cut Emma Peterson from the varsity volleyball team was influenced, at least in part, by Coach Crawford’s feelings about Nancy Peterson’.

            He added that Crawford’s action was in violation of Board Policy 1312.1, which ‘prohibits retaliation against a complainant who brings an oral or written complaint against a district employee’.

            The findings went on to say that ‘Crawford did not display core ethical values of trustworthiness, respect and responsibility set forth in the Athletic Handbook for Coaches’.”

          4. iPad Guy

            I’m more interested in understanding just how you justify your own stand rather than getting a repeat of your cute amazement comment.

            I’ve tried to explain how I come to my contention that both parties should be accepting responsibility for their own actions.

            If you are really saying that the coach is justified in mistreating a student and violating district policies because Nancy Peterson’s conduct was bad enough, why not just say so.

            If not, what are you saying?

            Insulting me again with the same words isn’t helpful to the discussion at all.

          5. Don Shor

            I’ll keep it short. The investigator was not a good choice, since he and his law firm had already investigated Nancy Peterson previously. I don’t find the jargon that we have read to be persuasive. In fact, they are what we call ‘weasel words’. A similar $22,000 investigation into the ongoing behavior of Nancy Peterson would have been more useful.

            I don’t even know that the coach ‘mistreated’ a student. Making up a roster involves considerable subjectivity.

            both parties should be accepting responsibility for their own actions.

            Again, to simplify: what the trustee provably did far outweighs what the coach supposedly did.

            What amazes me is your continued defense of the behavior of Nancy Peterson and her husband. There is simply no equivalence between the proven actions of the two principals in this case. To keep saying “both parties should accept responsibility” suggests that equivalence.

          6. iPad Guy

            Thank you for the explanation. I have not defended Nancy Peterson’s behavior. I have criticized her behavior and her husband’s.

            I never have weighed evenly the school board member’s bad behavior and the coach’s alleged bad behavior. I have argued that retaliating against a open complainer remains a serious policy violation regardless of how objectionable how inappropriately public the complainer has been.

            Whether one set of actions “outweighs” the other is less important a consideration than whether the retaliation happened at all.

            I also have been critical of the Vanguard articles and comments and name calling that have been obvious attempts to demonize the Peterson family on order to excuse Coach Crawford’s actions.

            Maybe that criticism is what you’ve confused as “defending” the Peterson’s bad behavior. It is not a defense of anything, but an indictment.

            Your amazement is misguided.

        2. Jim Frame

          4. Administrator Roberson decided not to rehire the at-will coach, the coach has appealed the decision and the board has agreed to decide whether to sustain the appeal, with Nancy Peterson recusing herself. Nothing in #4 is out of line.

          Nothing is out of line if he decided not to rehire Crawford because he believed she was not the best coach for the team. If he made the decision because he got the word that a certain Trustee would be upset if he rehired Crawford, then there’s plenty out of line, regardless of whether the word came directly from the Trustee or indirectly through the Superintendent.

          I don’t know if we’ll ever find out how this particular piece of the puzzle came about, but I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it as unworthy of further consideration.

          1. iPad Guy

            “If he made the decision because he got the word that a certain Trustee would be upset if he rehired Crawford, then there’s plenty out of line….”

            Where did you come up with this suggestion? It’s one that I haven’t seen even hinted at before.

            Are you contending that one of the four ready to decide the appeal instructed the administration not to rehire the coach? Why would anyone come up with an idea, one bound to put the board in such a dilemma?

            Given that the administration already made such a decision the year before–along with the fact that they’re holding a 72-page investigation report–it doesn’t seem that they’d need some unwelcome interference from the board. (And, pray tell, who in this town would care if “a certain Trustee” got upset?!)

            The innuendo is patently offensive to Winfred Robeson. Until someone comes up with something more, the charge is unworthy of further consideration.

          2. Jim Frame

            Where did you come up with this suggestion? It’s one that I haven’t seen even hinted at before.

            From the events of 2013. In February the administration put Crawford’s VSA on consent, indicating their satisfaction with her performance. Nancy pulled the VSA and forced a 3-2 vote in favor, so now both the administration and the Board are backing Crawford. But the administration now smells trouble with Peterson.

            In June the adminstration does an about-face an announces that Crawford won’t be rehired. What changed?

            In July the Board reverses on a 3-1 vote, reinstating Crawford.

            After that it’s kind of a free-for-all, with the Peterson complaint, the investigation, etc., so it’s harder to tell what’s really going on. But prior to that, I have to look askance at the administration actions. Maybe they’re legit, but it sure doesn’t smell good to me.

          3. iPad Guy

            Sorry, I thought you were referring to the administration’s current decision not to rehire, which is easy to understand without involving a conspiracy theory.

            If you’re troubled about last summer’s decision that was overruled by the board, Mr. Roberson didn’t need anyone to give him the word that Ms. Peterson was trouble.

            I would think that he gave his reasons for believing Ms. Crawford “was not the best coach for the team,” but that the board found them wanting and though another chance was in order. I was too quick to dismiss concern for a board member’s attitudes as unworthy of further consideration.

  9. hpierce

    Starting to think that the right answer might be, coach Crawford stops coaching, but has no other ‘job actions’ taken against her, and Board Member Peterson [edited]

  10. Biddlin

    “The district needs to review the athletic program management procedures. The board needs to censure one of its members. That member should resign immediately.”

    Agree with Don. I honestly cannot imagine a reason for Coach Crawford to do anything but wait. She certainly owes nothing to Ms. Peterson and the board needs to rule on her appeal before she makes any decisions about further action or statements.

  11. eagle eye

    The way Peterson played with words and distorted the truth in her op ed leads one to wonder whether she distorts the truth in her own mind, too. If this is the case, it would explain why she can’t accept Crawford’s coaching, and had disputes with the prior coach as well. She may not be seeing reality quite the way others do. It would also explain her inappropriate use of her school board position to go after the coach.

    Dr. Peterson ought to withdraw his complaint for his wife’s sake, let the board approve Crawford’s continuing as coach, and the athletic program could get back on track asap. This is hurting the kids who are waiting to play.

    1. Realist

      I agree with eagle eye. The board should approve Crawford continuing as coach. If there are other volleyball parents who are aggrieved due to Coach Crawford’s behavior toward their student (and I hear there are a few) then they can come forward and file complaints. At that time, the school district can hire a truly independent, one time only, third party legal investigation team to determine the merits of the complaints and take appropriate action.

      The current investigators have no legitimacy in this matter due their district ties and their findings, whatever they are, are suspect. I would think the Crawford supporters could fund a similarly biased investigation which would show that the method used for determining the makeup of the volleyball team was entirely appropriate and no retaliation was involved.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        The results for the year actually showed that the coach has a very young and very talented team that delivered this year, and also has a very bright future!

  12. TrueBlueDevil

    It would be interesting to know the leanings and politics of the in-house woman (legal council?) who recommended the Sacramento law firm who wrote up this investigation. She may be strictly objective, or not. I write this because I was discussing the latest turns with an experienced attorney, who replied: “You’d pick a firm you were on friendly terms with.” Not crucial, but worth knowing.

  13. TrueBlueDevil

    While I applaud the recommendations for restorative justice, it doesn’t sound like the individuals involved will go for that. Nancy Peterson probably sees herself ninety percent of the way towards victory, i.e., the removal of Coach Crawford. The board, not having seen the report, apparently agrees with many others – that this is a personal conflict.

    Who knows how they will deliberate. Maybe there is a Bobby Knight or Tanya Harding incident we are unaware of, which rises above the level of snarky words or a terse email. Or, maybe they agree that this is all a circus, and they will give Coach Crawford her job back. Maybe they won’t see mention of the two outstanding freshman players on the volleyball team, which upset the apple cart of the “status quo” volleyball team roster, and they’ll see that as one of many oversights in the 72-page report.

    Sadly, this drama has more chapters as there is still Coach Crawford’s VSA for girls volleyball, potential lawsuits, and future volleyball teams to consider.

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re probably right. Can only suggest the right way to do things, can’t make people do the right thing. Depending on how this plays out, I would expect a group to take out recall papers.

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