Vanguard Analysis: Peterson Undone by New Media

Robert Peterson, husband of School Board Member Nancy Peterson, addresses School Board two weeks ago.
Robert Peterson, husband of School Board Member Nancy Peterson, addresses School Board two weeks ago.

A decade ago, Nancy Peterson would probably still be on the Davis School Board.  In fact, a better handling of the matter at hand and she would probably be, as well.  But one clear thing that the demise of Nancy Peterson illustrates is how much influence social media and new media now make in the handling of a crisis.

In our initial rollout of the story, it was another controversial firing of a high school official and the mystery that surrounds such personnel matters.  And, even on the first day of coverage, this story figured to take on a life of its own.  The school board had just released a statement that they had voted 4-0 to hear the appeal.

An interesting question at this point is what if the Petersons, in the face of criticism, had simply decided to allow the controversy to run its course.  After all, the previous controversy ran its course, and the firing of the basketball coach or high school principal did not bring down board members.

However, the Petersons were taking a beating in the press – particularly the new media, whether it was Facebook, the Davis Hub, or the Vanguard, and so they decided to make their first major mistake in this crisis and leak the letter from HR Director Matt Best to the Davis Enterprise.

While employment law experts disagree with the perception of the report, the perception on social media and in the comment section of the Vanguard is that language like “more likely than not” and “was influenced, at least in part” was weak and equivocal and that language gave critics of Nancy Peterson and supporters of Julie Crawford ammunition to push back.

But the Petersons also fed the frenzy.  By leaking that there was an investigation to the press, it alerted the Vanguard and Bob Dunning to look into cost and when the cost came out as $22,000, it fed into a wave of anger and disbelief that a district in financial crisis would spend this much investigating the cut of a player who just happened to be a child of a school board member.

In the days before social media and news websites with comments, the only public outlet would have been organizing and a letter writing campaign – a slow and cumbersome process.  With social media, the reach of comments and community discussion is unprecedented.  New information went viral.

The toll was clear two weeks ago, when Robert Peterson made his ill-fated decision to get up and speak during public comment.  He was responding to criticism and blamed blogs and Facebook for the spread of disinformation.

The truth is that the Petersons never really figured out how to counter this information source, they never figured out how to utilize it to their advantage.  Instead of engaging with the public and assuaging their concerns, they took to the 30,000 foot strategy.

They did an interview on I-See-Davis that inflamed people when Ms. Peterson told people that they needed to calm down, implying that she knew best.

Even the push back from Nancy Peterson supporters came in ways that did not mesh with new media realities.  The message the Vanguard received was that if we only knew what really happened, we would be supportive of Nancy Peterson.  But of course they could never state what really happened and they could never explain the string of mistakes that Ms. Peterson made that publicly inflamed the situation.

Despite all of this, Nancy Peterson might have survived this had it not been for the critical error of publishing the op-ed last Sunday in the Enterprise.  What she was thinking, we may never know.

From our perspective by late last week, this story had really died down.  It would have come back for the appeal itself, but other than the school board pushing for mediation at last Thursday’s meeting, the story had faded into the background.

That all changed when Nancy Peterson published the op-ed.  It is not just what she said, but what she did not state.  She did not take any responsibility, she did not admit any errors, she presented her daughter and her family as the unequivocal victims.

The world, however, has changed.  Top-down, one-way communications no longer work.  In the old days, the story would have run in Sunday’s paper, it might have been until Thursday before the letters of outrage came to the paper.  Who knows what effect that would have had.

What we know now is that, before the op-ed even hit the print addition, there were dozens of comments on the Enterprise.  The Vanguard picked it up and that article and several follow ups resulted in hundreds of comments and thousands of readers.

The backlash was clear and the few voices of support were drowned under an avalanche of criticism.

A new phenomenon emerged – crowdsourcing.  As parents and players and former coaches weighed in and commented, new information emerged.  Former Coach Leigh Whitmire Choate, for instance, was able to fill in the background that informed the public that the disagreement went back several years to the date when Ms. Peterson was an assistant coach and Ms. Choate was the coach.

To date, no one has refuted her rendition of facts.

The amazing thing about this volleyball controversy is the difference between the official, traditional reporting and new media.  The Enterprise itself had a number of stories in which they actually carried the message of the Petersons.  Their official op-ed attempted to split the baby and call out both sides for putting children in the middle of their complaints.

The op-ed was that of Nancy Peterson and there were a few but not a huge number of letters to the editor.

Only Bob Dunning was critical of the Nancy Peterson version and a lot of his attention focused on the cost of the investigation.

Had this been ten years ago, this would have been the only source of information and the counter-campaign would have needed considerable more energy.  New media allowed for real-time criticism to occur and real-time backlash to be generated.

Without that backlash to Ms. Peterson’s op-ed, it is highly unlikely she would have resigned.

Some people, particularly her defenders, will undoubtedly see this in a negative light.  The truth is, new technology is only a tool.  It can be used in a variety of different ways.

Where Nancy Peterson may have been undone is that she was still trying to fight a traditional media fight in an era of new media.  30,000 foot campaigns do not work.  When public distrust is involved, telling people to “trust” and “calm down” do not work.

Some will say that the problem is that this was a personnel matter and she was unable to get her side of the story out.  I would argue that, from the leak to the press, the interview on I-See-Davis, the public comment by Robert Peterson and finally, her op-ed, she did get her side of the story out.

The problem was, she did so in an arrogant and condescending manner that blew back on her.  The problem was not that she did not get her side of the story out, it’s that she talked down to the public rather than engaging them in dialogue.

She clearly failed to calculate that the leak would blow right back on her, unless she provided enough information to assure the public that her side of the story was the right side of the story.

The amazing thing is that Ms. Peterson resigned with almost no criticism from her colleagues other than their request to remove the district as a battleground, with almost no calls from the traditional media to resign, and almost no negative articles in the mainstream press.  This was truly a new media resignation and it is a lesson every leader needs to learn and learn quickly.

—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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63 Comments

  1. Michael Harrington

    I agree with the DV’s analysis.

    The resignation sends the message that when the going gets rough , it’s ok to walk out on the team. There are no positive lessons here for the kids.

    1. Matt Williams

      Mike, I see it differently. Prior to last night Nancy was on two “teams.” She realized that that was one team too many and chose one team over the other.

      1. Rich Rifkin

        This, I think, gets to the heart of the entire matter. All members of the school board (and their spouses), who are parents, are on two teams. Yet, if they are to retain the public trust, they cannot employ, or appear to employ, the power of their elected positions (or their spouses’ positions) to better the prospects or outcomes of their children. It is necessarily a conflict of interest, in that they hold sway over district policy and indirectly all district employees.

        Difficult as it may be, the board members have to keep their hands completely off any situations where their own children run into conflicts with school district personnel. If one cannot do that, he should step down from his elected position first, and then take up the cause of his kid.

        My own (distant and dispassionate) read on the entire matter is that the Peterson family has been in conflict with Julie Crawford for a number of years. Since Mrs. Peterson never saw fit to abandon her daughter’s cause, Mrs. Peterson should have stepped down years ago.

        Another thing I think this case helps make clear is that there is a real problem in the leadership of the Davis High athletic department, of the DHS principal, and the Superintendent. There now have been four or five recent cases where seemingly good coaches have been let go. That is highly unusual in Davis High history. In my four years as a DHS student, not one coach of any sport was dismissed. In the 25 or so years after I graduated (in 1982), I don’t think coaches were being run off on a regular basis. But we now seem to have very poor administrative leadership in this regard. At the very least, I think the high school needs a new Athletic Director who picks good coaches and supports them. That might be easier without Mrs. Peterson on the Board.

          1. Hmmm

            Same AD; different principal. The previous principal stepped down citing “philosophical differences” with the Davis Board of Education leaders. I wonder if that anything to do with this volleyball fiasco?

  2. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > New media allowed for real-time criticism to occur and
    > real time backlash to be generated.

    First I want to congratulate Nancy for making a tough decision but one that is best for her family, the school district, and the city. I think that even her harshest critics will be impressed by this and soon forget about the whole thing (assuming that she is not resigning to go on the full offensive and suing the school district, the city, Julie, David, the Enterprise and iSeeDavis…) .

    I also want to congratulate David for running a blog that does not get talking points from the “red team” or “blue team” every morning and deleting any posts that reflect poorly on a union (that funds the blue team) or a developer (that funds the red team).

    In the past most voters got info from politicians (who usually say what their donors want them to say), the radio (who usually say what their advertisers want them to say) , the newspaper (who usually say what their advertisers want them to say) or political mailers (who are paid for buy people that support candidates that will do what they want if they keep giving them money)…

    1. Matt Williams

      I also want to congratulate David for running a blog that does not get talking points from the “red team” or “blue team” every morning and deleting any posts that reflect poorly on a union (that funds the blue team) or a developer (that funds the red team).

      In the past most voters got info from politicians (who usually say what their donors want them to say), the radio (who usually say what their advertisers want them to say) , the newspaper (who usually say what their advertisers want them to say) or political mailers (who are paid for buy people that support candidates that will do what they want if they keep giving them money)…

      Well said SoD

  3. Phil Coleman

    The name most often mentioned in this condemning article is Nancy Peterson. Wrong person. It was the guy pictured at the top who bears the greater brunt of what eventually happened, and how.

    Robert Peterson made the formal complaint against Julie Crawford. Robert Peterson leaked the summary
    letter, then openly flaunted the same confidential letter when embarrassingly exposed. He sanctimoniously proclaimed that–while that others were legally constrained from speaking–he wasn’t. While that remark would later haunt him, at the time it was a powerful message, compellingly presented.

    The public was now getting a double serving of righteous indignation.

    Dr. Peterson then walked into the School Board meeting, repeated his formal complaint, and added Leigh Coates to his attack list, and implied they were victims of a conspiracy over a period of months or years. Peterson then proceeded to bash the news sources that he had earlier enlisted to carry his water. They were not staying loyal to his original story and were impertinently probing its validity.

    After that, Rob Peterson returned to the media he just chastised and alluded to new evidence, incriminating E-mails from Crawford that were very damaging to her appeal. Dr. Peterson again gets our rapt attention, he has relevant E-mails, and he is not legally constrained from sharing them. Share them and we’ll assess.

    But he does not, saying he can’t speak further. What did you say? You can’t speak now?

    It was at that precise time that both Petersons lost the war they started and the public arena battlefield they chose. Eventually, they realized neither could no longer manipulate any public forum to their advantage. Meanwhile, all Crawford had to do was stay silent.

    Nancy’s gaffes are summarized above. Her husband’s were even worse. Combined, this sordid story can serve as a public policy case study for years to come, how to do just about everything wrong when it comes to using the media to advance your agenda.

    1. Rich Rifkin

      Phil, in this matter, I don’t think it makes any sense to disaggregate the statements or behaviors of Dr. Peterson from his wife. He was speaking for their family, and thus speaking for his wife and his daughter. That would not be a problem, if Nancy was not in a position of public trust, and she did not have power (some of it indirect) over the employees of the DJUSD. If Nancy Peterson would have done what would have been appropriate for a trustee–to take no position in the dispute involving her daughter–she would have told her husband to make no public statements and make no requests for inquiries against Julie Crawford.

      Inevitably, because it is next to impossible for most parents to leave their kids to fend for themselves in such matters, Nancy Peterson had to step down once she decided her daughter was right and the district employee was wrong. It made matters no better for Dr. Peterson to speak for his wife in this case.

      1. David Greenwald

        Well said. This has been my view as well.

        In modern times in general one spouse doesn’t tell the other spouse what to do. However, my wife was recently asked for her endorsement for a particular candidate. I have learned that I can do my job the best when I stay neutral. We decided that her endorsing a candidate would put me into a bad decision and therefore she declined. This is what the Petersons failed to do.

        1. Rich Rifkin

          I should note that I was not exactly sure what my view on this was until you more-less said what I said (1:11 pm) a few days ago. So the credit goes to you, insofar as I feel like I now know what ought to have happened.

        2. PhilColeman

          David: The logic of Rich’s point, echoed by you, is refutable. Intuitively, I’m sure there was much pillow-talk and some level of coordination between the two Petersons and their individual actions in this matter.

          But I could never prove that, so I spoke of Rob’s public actions and behavior and omitted any reference to Nancy’s possible complicity.

          FWIW, my wife was similarly constrained when I was a public figure.

  4. Davis Progressive

    i think there are a lot of people still acting like it’s the year 2000, the internet is a foreign concept, and the enterprise is the only game in town. more and more those people will lose. nancy peterson played one game – the enterprise. she tried to dictate the discussion. the community rebelled against that approach. city council candidates and other office seekers should take heed. right now, i see robb davis and now john munn engaged and no one else. we all saw the readership stats posted from february, it’s a new day. nancy learned the hard lesson, the wrong way.

    1. wdf1

      D.P.: nancy peterson played one game – the enterprise.

      But she also interviewed with iSeeDavis, an exclusively online/internet source.

      What I think is sometimes difficult for some to handle about aspects of the new online media is that discussion is very public (for instance the hundreds of comments posted here), the comments are often made in the heat of the moment, and they are permanent (unless Don Shor or others decide to remove comments). In the old media, comments made in the heat of the moment were more verbalized as gossipy in nature among friends (once spoken they might be more readily forgotten), and if one wrote a letter to the editor, the amount of time it took load a typewriter, check a dictionary for spelling, look for stamps, look up the address of the Davis Enterprise, and find an envelope, the writer actually might calm down and reflect more dispassionately. But now large amounts of community anxiety is on public display, and it looks outsized relative to pre-new media times.

      1. Davis Progressive

        good points all around. iseedavis however, proves the point i was making. first of all, not generally known for hard-hitting news. second it’s not an interactive site.

        i think you’re analysis is very good on the difference between new and old media in terms of feedback…

      2. D.D.

        Re: speed of internet opinions vs. old fashioned letter writing, or person – to- person discussion: I wholeheartedly agree. In my old job we had a “recall” function on our emails. We could easily recall an email in the first few minutes after we typed it, if we changed our minds, or wanted to edit something. Many employees loved that function.

        1. Jim Frame

          In my old job we had a “recall” function on our emails. We could easily recall an email in the first few minutes after we typed it, if we changed our minds, or wanted to edit something.

          The question is, did it work? I’ve gotten more than a few emails from state agency employees that were soon followed by a second message that read “[staffer name] would like to recall the message [subject].” I always found those pretty funny.

          1. iPad Guy

            We had the same capability more than 25 years ago. Even with the shortcoming you’ve noted, it still would have come in handy a few times since.

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    My Mom used to say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The Peterson’s motto wasn’t that. Think of the lost opportunities here … this is all hypothetical, so I am not divulging private information … but they could help their daughter raise her GPA from 3.8 to 3.9 (she has educated parents), they could enroll their daughter in an advanced language class, they could do volunteer work as a family, take a family vacation, visit some college campuses, spend a week or two in San Francisco or Tahoe … instead, there were hundreds of hours spent on throwing mud.

    This is a good move by Nancy Peterson, so I congratulate her, but it still sounds like she wants to fight and obtain her pound of flesh.

    Can she relax, back off, self reflect, and refocus her energies elsewhere? For her and her family’s mental health, why not use her volunteer spirit at the Sacramento Symphony or a Sacramento charity of her choosing? This could do wonders.

    But if she continues to seek revenge, I think true healing won’t happen.

    NEW PETERSON STORY / ALLEGATION: Davis High School Staff has wronged “countless families” who are “fearful”.

    Please. Drop it, and make some lemonade.

    1. Tia Will

      This sounds amazingly like the ill fated comment that Ms. Peterson made when advising members of the community to “calm down”. While her timing and delivery did not go down well, I think it was very sound advice and much grief might have been avoided had community members actually taken it and demonstrated a little patience.

    2. Tia Will

      “Davis High School Staff has wronged “countless families” who are “fearful”.

      This is not a new story, or a Peterson story. This has been the factual story in high school coaching in this town as I noted in my post on another thread. I know because my son and I were there.

  6. iPad Guy

    This is an interesting proposition, that it was “new media” that brought down Nancy Peterson and that traditional media could not have undone her. It’s certainly worth evaluating, even though you’ve incorporated a lot that suggests the messages and the messengers played as much a role as the media.

    A correction is in order:

    “He was responding to criticism and blamed blogs and Facebook for the spread of disinformation.”

    This is incorrect as far as I can tell. When Dr. Peterson was explaining why he was foregoing his prepared presentation, he talked about about blogs and Newspapers. He did not mention Facebook. And, he particularly noted Leigh Coates’ blog remarks and links–which it appears that you’ve labeled as “crowd-sourcing” in this case.

    I’d be astounded if he wasn’t referring to The Vanguard articles and comments and The Enterprise letters as objects of his frustrations for what he was calling “distractions and lies” (rather than “responding to criticism”).

    In considering this question, do you see any “new media” other than The Vanguard as having a significant role in undoing Nancy Peterson? Is so, which ones? How do you categorize the on-line Enterprise reporting, op-eds and letters?

    When you talk about the how the Petersons were unable to “counter this information source,” to what media are you referring other than The Vanguard?

    And, when you describe Nancy Peterson as being “undone by new media,” do you mean anything other than being driven to resignation?

    1. David Greenwald

      One of his specific complaints was about the posting of his kids pictures on the Davis Hub website. That clearly was not us. We tried to take care to not use names of the kids.

      “In considering this question, do you see any “new media” other than The Vanguard as having a significant role in undoing Nancy Peterson? Is so, which ones? How do you categorize the on-line Enterprise reporting, op-eds and letters?”

      Facebook played a huge role. I saw a lot of cross-posting of Enterprise, Vanguard, and Dunning articles.

      The Enterprise reporting is fairly old-media, but the comment section which was more active than usual was important particularly on the Peterson Op-ed itself.

      “When you talk about the how the Petersons were unable to “counter this information source,” to what media are you referring other than The Vanguard?”

      That wasn’t a media-specific point but rather the point that they might have done better by engaging with the community rather than speaking at the community. While Julie took the advisable tactic of going silent, she had a number of supporters like Leigh Choate who could engage with people, give their insight, and dialogue with the community. I thought that was key and it made Leigh’s comments very credible to the point where I didn’t see anyone factually refute them.

      The other thing that the Petersons could have done was say nothing. Had they said nothing from the time this story broke until now, I doubt she would have had to resign.

      “And, when you describe Nancy Peterson as being “undone by new media,” do you mean anything other than being driven to resignation?”

      No, that seems like a big price to pay. Can you recall someone else in Davis who has resigned due to scandal?

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        The ISeeDavis video / website could also be seen as “new media”. They did themselves no favor there… her talking down to us response was confirmed when she told us to “calm down”.

        Second, Dr. Peterson showed at least the first page of the summary 2-page letter of the “investigation” to ISeeDavis, which we could save to our computers and analyze. Here we saw that the Peterson’s also accused two-time Coach of the Year Crawford of being “incompetent”.

        Now we learn that “countless families” live in “fear” of Davis High School “Staff”. Really?

        Big News: we just learned that two administrators were removed from their positions, re-assigned to classroom duties. One blogger asked whether one of these individuals was the Athletic Director. Who this effects is a real mystery … was this why there was a recent legal conversation in closed quarters?

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Nationally, Yahoo also covered the controversy maybe 10 days back, and pointed readers to the maxpreps website. One blogger for Yahoo gave their evaluation of the relevant, objective volleyball statistics presented there, which no one in Davis would dare do.

          1. iPad Guy

            TBD, you don’t give yourself enough credit for keeping the “compare the performance” stat issue alive and hooked to most every Vanguard story. And, here it is yet again.

          2. TrueBlueDevil

            Aren’t objective, quantifiable data highly relevant? … this came to light after the 3rd… count em, 1, 2, 3 time attempt to axe a Coach of the Year.

            Anyway, this drama has entered a new phase with two demotions / re-assignments.

            And how did the train get off the tracks so that a coach, principal, and athletic director all get circumvented by one person with a fancy title?

          3. TrueBlueDevil

            iPad Guy, here is a question for you. The Peterson’s, and we assume their daughter, have tried to get Coach Peterson fired three times. Bloggers and writers have treated the daughter with kid gloves, not even mentioning her name. So while Coach Crawford has been demeaned, and some could argue defamation has occurred, why can’t an adult reply with even basic facts? She is also quite possibly 18 now, and there have been reports that she actually acted quite disrespectfully towards Coach Peterson and her staff.

            So when are we able to mention her name, and role in this? Because it sounds like Mrs. Peterson is still loaded for bear. We’ve been more than respectful. Is her name allowed to be named when she is 19? 22? 35? Please, I’d really like to know.

          4. iPad Guy

            I’ll do my best.

            I think that most of us bought into the “kid glove” ground rules after several folks noted that it wasn’t a good idea to be arguing on The Vanguard about the abilities and behavior of a 12th grader.

            There were a couple suggestions that people had heard negative reports about the student’s performance (as you have here). Others proposed hypotheticals that could explain options other than retaliation, things that relied on speculation and assumptions (like yours here) about the girl.

            You’ll probably find that David took this approach. He’s been very critical and hard line on the mother and father, but I don’t think he’s ever even hinted at the daughter’s behavior or competence.

            My personal view is that Coach Crawford knows exactly why and how she made her decision and that she’s fully capable of making it clear to those who need to know at the appropriate time and place.

            The idea that the coach needs others to tell the town why she might have cut a player seems really misguided and unnecessary.

            Wouldn’t you think that the outpouring of positive comments about the coach and the disdain expressed for the parents is the most practical support approach? I don’t think the school board could be very impressed with mean arguments that trash kids.

          5. Matt Williams

            While I agree that all of what you have said above is probably correct, I can’t help but wonder what harm would have been done if Coach Crawford had simply chosen to retain rather than cut the final players. The typical college football roster contains well over 100 players that fit into a total of 22 starting positions, as well as 3, maybe 4, special teams players. That is more than four full two-way lineups. Does the Davis VB team even keep 2 full lineups?

          6. iPad Guy

            What harm, indeed?

            If the coach had come to me (I’m, say, the athletic director or the principal or the assistant administrator or the Big Boss who approves coach hiring recommendations), I would have helped her look a little differently at her difficult dilemma.

            I’d have reminded her that she and her officemate/fellow coach havc been through nearly three years of struggle with this one parent, that she needs to put the hurtful, public criticisms of two months earlier behind her, that this is high school sports we’re talking about, that we can find some resources to help if there are any special needs with this year’s team, that we’ll find some extra recognition for coaching this student and the team into a quality season and academic year.

            In addition, I would have made sure that the student athletes, coaches and families got opportunities for mediation, team building, etc.

            There probably would have been no need to issue any friendly cautions about getting caught up in even the appearance of retaliation, but that advice would be included if it seemed necessary.

            There must have been some reason the coach didn’t get better coaching as she faced the team roster decisions last season. It’s too bad no one was there to help her at such a critical time in her career.

            This kind of problem has come up before in the DHS athletic program. All of those involved can help limit the odds of something similar happening again by making some substantial changes in the program and processes.

          7. Mark West

            There is only so much practice time available and having too many players can be a problem. Also, some sports (even College Football) have restrictions on the total number of players on the team.

            More important however is that the kids will know which players have earned a place on the team through their skills, and which ones are there because they are the child of (select one) [the coach’s] [the Principal’s] [the School Board Member’s]. These ‘special case’ additions can really cause problems for the team dynamic, and can be quite disruptive. Do you really think it is a good idea to risk hurting all of the kids on the team just to keep one over zealous adult happy?

            Coaches should be encouraged to select their best team without concern over what the parents think. When the powerful parent comes to complain, they should be told by everyone from the Athletic Director on up to the President of the School Board, that it was the Coach’s decision and there will be no further discussion.

            Coaches are not infallible, but as long as they are not doing something illegal, they should be judged by how they treat their charges and the success of their team, not on how well they kiss up to people with too much power and not enough sense.

          8. TrueBlueDevil

            I agree with Mark, with 3 points.
            1. Coach Crawford apparently met with her superiors, and didn’t get help.
            2. Her use of a 4-person panel shows that she knew what was coming. This was a lose-lose scenario. Leaving such a player on the team means potentially three disruptive individuals meddling with the team for 4 months.
            3. There have been posts from insiders claiming that the player in question didn’t deal with her coaches in a respectful manner, which are part of the guidelines for DHS athletics. This wouldn’t surprise me as she has probably heard her parents criticizing and attempting to micro manage the vb program for years.

          9. iPad Guy

            “Do you really think it is a good idea to risk hurting all of the kids on the team just to keep one over zealous adult happy?”

            While everything you write (including this rhetorical question)is true, much of the general statement is of little or no application or importance in this case.

            Consider for a moment what faces the school district if the coach decides “with no further discussion” to retaliate against a student in order to get even with complaining parent.

            That is the current situation.

            Matt’s question simply asks how big a deal it would have been to find a way to allow the student to be on the team and avoid the train wreck that many claims was foreseeable.

            The coach could have made a different decision independently or her supervisors could have encouraged a different decision–aimed at eliminating the possibility of retaliation or the appearence of it.

            We got to this point following your very reasonable guidelines. Maybe there was another approach.

          10. Matt Williams

            Matt’s question simply asks how big a deal it would have been to find a way to allow the student to be on the team and avoid the train wreck that many claims was foreseeable.

            Matt’s question isn’t that simple. I may be 48 years removed from my Senior year in High School, but I remember weell just how powerful an effect getting cut from the Varsity team can have on a 17-18 year-old boy or girl. What I experienced when one of my classmates was cut by our Wrestling Coach (a man who was subsequently inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame) was life changing, and my teammate in question didn’t have two years of making the Varsity under his belt the way the athlete here in Davis did.

            So the trainwreck is the very least of my concerns. The impact on a 17-18 year-old adolescent is what prompted me to ask my question.

          11. Matt Williams

            There is only so much practice time available and having too many players can be a problem. Also, some sports (even College Football) have restrictions on the total number of players on the team.

            Coach Choate made the same point. With that said, I think the term “problem” is a bit strong. “Inconvenience” is probably a more appropriate word.

            More important however is that the kids will know which players have earned a place on the team through their skills, and which ones are there because they are the child of (select one) [the coach’s] [the Principal’s] [the School Board Member’s].

            Mark, what evidence do we have that the athlete in question would have been there because they are the child of a dignitary? If I have my information correct, Coach Crawford made two separate decisions to include the athlete on the Varsity … once in Sophomore year and once in Junior year. Were both of those decisions because the athlete was the child of a dignitary? If they were, then shame on Coach Crawford. However, I’ve seen no evidence that the athlete made the Varsity in those two past seasons for any reason other than the quality of her play

            These ‘special case’ additions can really cause problems for the team dynamic, and can be quite disruptive. Do you really think it is a good idea to risk hurting all of the kids on the team just to keep one over zealous adult happy?

            I agree that when such a special case exists, all of what you say is likely to be true. However, I haven’t seen any evidence in this case that a two-year returning Varsity player was a ‘special case.”

            Coaches should be encouraged to select their best team without concern over what the parents think. When the powerful parent comes to complain, they should be told by everyone from the Athletic Director on up to the President of the School Board, that it was the Coach’s decision and there will be no further discussion.

            Coaches are not infallible, but as long as they are not doing something illegal, they should be judged by how they treat their charges and the success of their team, not on how well they kiss up to people with too much power and not enough sense.

            All good points, but the question I have is, do they apply to the athlete in question in this situation? Not having been there, I am in no position to know either way.

            Further, the behavior of the adults in the circus that this has become, doesn’t change the reality that a 17-18 year-old adolescent who was a two-time returning Varsity player was discarded to the trash heap. How inconvenient is that?

          12. iPad Guy

            Sorry, Matt, I didn’t mean to minimize your issue. The train wreck I’m seeing certainly includes the impact that comes from getting cut and the worse prospect that it’s come about because of retaliation.

            I’ve tried to avoid commenting on that student athlete part of this discussion since almost no one here will acknowledge the district’s present finding of retaliation or even accept the possibility that it could have happened. Those chats quickly devolve into claims that the student was, or must have been, deficient or otherwise is unworthy. I don’t want to engage in this kind of hurtful discussion, particularly since the situation is well past that kind of argument.

            I also appreciate it that David purposely has avoided getting us into useless arguments about this student’s performance, attitude or behavior.

            That’s why my comments are aimed at the other issues involved. Thank you for clarifying your point. Again, sorry.

            P.S.–I read with interest the former coach’s answer to your similar question. She’s an expert on the team-making question.

            After carefully reading, I understand what she’s saying about “typical” and “ideal” situations and conclude that including one or two more players on the team would have been a good alternative to the cut that happened in this case.

            I’d rather the coach would have dealt with the associated complications, the practice time time and space issues, the potential disappointment when a player would like more time, etc., than to lose her job because an investigation reveals some retaliation.

            I’ll bet the player and coach would have been fine with the trade off.

      2. Rich Rifkin

        “One of his specific complaints was about the posting of his kids pictures on the Davis Hub website.”

        When Debbie Davis Gallaudet was running The Hub, that never would have happened. Of course, back when Debbie was the advisor for the Davis High newspaper, there was no internet and no websites to speak of.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          I went there a week or 10 days ago and didn’t see such. So maybe it was removed, maybe I didn’t know who was in the picture, or has anyone else verified this?

        2. David Greenwald

          Maybe Rich. But the Enterprise published excerpts from a private personnel document (the letter from the HR department and Matt Best) and the name of the Peterson’s daughter on their website. So the Enterprise is not beyond reproach here.

          1. iPad Guy

            You’re not still claiming that Rob Peterson has no right to show anyone his letter from Best and that The Enterprise hasn’t the right to base a story on the letter, are you?

            You’ve said or implied this a couple times, but what is your basis for concluding these two things?

            P.S: Will you be applying the same laws to documents you obtain so The Vanguard will remain above reproach in the futute?

          2. David Greenwald

            My view is as it’s been. (A) As a private citizen the Petersons may have had the ‘right’ to release whatever information they received from the district, but up until last night, they weren’t private citizens. (B) THe Enterprise printed what was a private, confidential document that they could not have received from the district through the PRA and the district could not comment on. I question their decision to do that even if they technically had the legal right to do so.

          3. iPad Guy

            You cannot believe that Dr. Peterson somehow became a private citizen only last night and that he gained new, private citizen rights in the last 24 hours.

            This new assertion that Rob Peterson hasn’t been a private citizen while his wife was an school board official is the biggest laugher so far.

            You cannot believe that the fact that the Enterprise would not be able to get Dr. Peterson’s letter through a public records request means anything about whether they can publish the letter that they obtained lawfully.

            You cannot believe the idea that a district’s inability to comment on certain matters carries with it the slightest limitations on a publication’s ability to write about the matter.

            I’m so sure you’re pulling my leg here that I’ll ask what you’d think as I apply your reasoning to Coach Crawford’s act of leaking her official documents to the Enterprise two days earlier.

            As a school district employee, she (and any members of her family) still wouldn’t be private citizens, and The Enterprise wouldn’t have been able to write the first story on this episode since the district cannot release the documents or comment on her confidential performance documents.

            Now comes your subtle postscript backup contention that even IF the newspaper “technically” has the “legal right” to publish, you “question their decision to do that.”

            So, we come full circle and still have no rationale for your claims or for your questioning of the Enterprise story decision.

            Would you please reconsider, even if just to allow Coach Crawford to pick up a “Get a of Jail Free” card for her transgression? Here’s hoping you don’t have mandatory sentencing guidelines that go with this crime.

          4. Mark West

            Mr. Peterson did not have the right to release confidential information about Coach Crawford. He had the right to release anything he wanted about himself, his wife or his minor children, but not someone outside of his own family.

            Coach Crawford had the complete right to release confidential information about herself at any time.

            The two events are not equivalent.

          5. iPad Guy

            The question is not whether the two situations are equivalent or identical, only whether David’s reasons for claiming that neither Rob Peterson nor The Enterprise had the right to do what they did.

            The discussion is about whether Rob Peterson had the right to provide a copy of his letter from the district to someone else.

            David says “no,” but gives bogus legal theories about private citizenship, public records requests, and so on. David’s “rules” would have restricted Coach Crawford’s release of her own records.

            I agree with you that the coach had the right to “leak” her confidential personnel papers and private conversations with her supervisor and principal.

            What prohibits Dr. Peterson from showing his letter to other people?

            I don’t think either of the two should have gone to the newspaper with their story and confidential papers. I think both should have maintained their silence at least until the school board acts on the appeal and, probably, forever more.

            I have many reasons for these opinions, but can’t come up with anything that would prohibit what they did or what The Enterprise did. David couldn’t either. Can you?

          6. David Greenwald

            “David says “no,” but gives bogus legal theories ”

            You’re misrepresenting my position either intentionally or unintentionally, I am making NO LEGAL CLAIMS HERE.

          7. iPad Guy

            Okay, I’ve thought of a small possibility of a situation that could involve a prohibition against Dr. Peterson’s sharing his letter. But, you first.

            In the case of the newspaper’s rights, however, nothing. The Enterprise is beyond reproach.

          8. David Greenwald

            This is well said. My problem is that Mr. Peterson took it upon himself to release private information not only about his family but about Coach Crawford and that’s not okay.

          9. David Greenwald

            You’re talking in terms of rights here – when in fact there are no legal issues in question. The question is whether Nancy Peterson when she was a school board member with fiduciary and other responsibilities should have had her husband leak private confidential information to the press. There is no legal issue here and so if you belief that what is legally permissible exonerates all actions, then you are correct. I don’t believe that my moral actions from the law. I hold myself and others, particularly elected officials to a higher standard.

            Based on that, your entire post misses the point. I’m not arguing that anything illegal occurred, the Davis Enterprise printed private and confidential information and only got the consent of one of the parties, and that I have a problem with.

      3. iPad Guy

        I missed the Facebook stuff. Did someone start a page? Links, please. Although Dr. Peterson did not mention Facebook, he might have been lumping it in with “the blogs.”

        It’s clear to the casual observer that Dr. Peterson’s complaint at the meeting about “accusations, the distortions and the lies and the blogs and the newspapers” was aimed at The Vanguard and The Enterprise columns and letters.

        Although he was distressed that his “13-year-old is linked” on the Davis High site, that school misstep can’t be considered in the same league.

        What you haven’t analyzed here is the difference in the two “sides” needs to “get out their story.”

        Once Coach Crawford got out her story (in the first Enterprise article Feb. 11) with Chris Saur, she had nothing to gain by “using” any media. Although she knew more about her own situation than she told the Enterprise reporter, she and her attorney kept quiet from that point.

        The coach’s initiative turned out to be a good use of “old media.”

        All of the letter-writing response expressed outrage about the mystery of why the coach wasn’t rehired, blaming DJUSD administrators with a few speculations that Nancy Peterson must have driven the decision.

        In response, Rob Peterson gets out his story two days later (Feb. 13, Enterprise, Chris Saur). Instead of helping his “side” in any way, the article triggers a firestorm of angry letters a well as the Vanguard campaign against Ms. Peterson.

        Dr. Peterson’s response turned out to be a horrible use of “old media.”

        Your observation that the Petersons could have (should have) taken the “say nothing” approach should have been obvious with Dr. Peterson’s first failed attempt. The

        The fact is that the Petersons had no “side” that they needed to communicate until the attacks began. At that point, no communication trying to justify their actions or combat anything that arose in the “new media” could be successful.

        I don’t understand your response about what “Peterson Undone” means to you. I think it’s clear that her resignation is the “undoing” caused by new media.

        In addition, it’s very obvious that the “new media” that is credited for her undoing is the bottom-up(?), two-way Vanguard (with a little help from the old-media, on-line Enterprise letter writers and Columnist Bob Dunning).

        1. David Greenwald

          Most them are not links but rather comments from private individuals on various postings. It is unlikely you will be able to find them, though you could look at the articles on the Vanguard page and see if anyone posted a comment there.

  7. Frankly

    Rejection evokes the strongest emotional responses in humans of any stripe.

    A child being dismissed by a coach will certainly feel rejected. While children need to be taught coping skills for being rejected because it is part of life, many modern parents never really learned to cope themselves and so they make mistakes passing over opportunities for demonstrating the correct way to handle a rejection.

    Often times “quitting” is just a weak response of retribution. It is the “you rejected me, so I am rejecting you” dance.

    Not sure is that was the case here… certainly there was a drop in the lack of confidence for Nancy Peterson to continue and serve… and a big pile of distraction to the school board that prevented them from attending to other business.

    It might be that she took the higher road. But given the past behavior, I see it as more likely a “screw ya’ll… I’m out of here” move.

  8. Tia Will

    Well that is quite an illustration of the point that I was making earlier.

    A number or posters provide a barrage of demeaning commentary both appropriate in terms of addressing actions and inappropriately mean spirited in terms of personal invective and calling for Ms. Peterson’s resignation.

    They get it. She resigns. And now we have to have a speculative and demeaning rehashing of why we feel she resigned.

    Are we seriously more invested here in continuing the nasty commentary, or are we at a point where we could possibly be considering our own roles in this mess and how we might contribute in a more positive fashion in future conflicts.

    1. Frankly

      Tia – I think the point you are missing here is that many think Ms. Peterson did not conduct herself well in this incident. I think you might be over-sensing the comments as being meant-spirited when they are really just an attempt to analyze and understand the behavior.

      I think you tend to come on pretty hard on people that appear to abuse their positions of power. Are you being selective about what people and what power?

    2. iPad Guy

      An interesting question, to which we know the answer, don’t we?

      We’ve already had a dozen or more articles and accompanying comments in as many days. I predict the “nasty commentary” will continue, then accelerate when the school board makes its decision on Coach Crawford’s appeal. At that point, the level of vitriol and the length of the revival will depend on what decision the board makes.

      I’ve never seen such an outpouring in the Vanguard. I just hope we never have a major, serious, controversial outrage of such magnitude visited upon our little community ever again. And, this one can’t be gone too soon.

  9. fremontia

    Nancy Peterson’s defiant resignation lacked a mea culpa. It reminded me of Nixon’s resignation in that it left people feeling emotional drained instead of exultant.

  10. iPad Guy

    “David says ‘no’, but gives bogus legal theories about private citizenship, public records requests, and so on. David’s ‘rules’ would have restricted Coach Crawford’s release of her own records.”

    “You’re misrepresenting my position either intentionally or unintentionally, I am making NO LEGAL CLAIMS HERE.”

    I don’t intend to misrepresent your position at all, I’m sorry if I did. It shouldn’t be that difficult to get your point, but I wish I had. I though you and I both were dealing with significant points, but that we disagreed.

    I thought Mark was echoing your past contentions that Dr. Peterson had no right to show his letter to to The Enterprise.

    Then, you justify the stand by claiming that whatever right he had as private citizen didn’t apply because he didn’t become a private citizen until his wife resigned. Now, you’ve added the consideration that that the Enterprise “only got the consent of one of the parties” when it published information.

    Since your statements have some implied basis in law, it’s not surprising that I’d ask for some legal justification. Where do you come up with the concept that Rob Peterson didn’t have a private citizen’s right to show his letter last month because he wasn’t a private citizen “until last night”? Where did you get the notion that the records act somehow applies to Dr. Peterson’s letter or that the district’s restrictions on commenting somehow constrains the newspaper’s use of his letter.

    I’m sure you understand how I how I could assume you were asserting some legal basis for what you’ve been writing about these specific matters. You’re absolutely correct that I was “talking in terms of rights here,” but only because it seemed so clear that you were as well. All I was trying to say was that “in fact there are no legal issues in question” in the “leaking” or in the publication.

    What I think you’re saying now is that we agree on things that we thought we had disagreement. Do we agree that Coach Roberts and Dr. Peterson had unquestioned (not just technical) legal right to “leak” the confidential papers that were their property and pass along private discussions with school district officials? Do we agree that we wish that they hadn’t?

    Still, you vaguely assert the wrongness of these acts (“I have a problem with that…question their decision…not beyond reproach….”)

  11. iPad Guy

    But, as you foreswear any legal basis for saying the actions are wrong, I lest without a clue why you claim they’re wrong.. You’ve issued hints at a lot of reasons, but now say they never were operative. Invoking a higher moral authority still requires at least a minimum explanation about it should apply in this case.

    Okay, so here’s the legal possibility with which I’ve come up that COULD result in Rob Peterson being wrong (even legally) in showing his letter to anyone else. If Dr. Peterson signed some agreement with the district when he received the letter that required that he maintain confidentially, he could have violated it. But, I suspect there was no such agreement.

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