Just when you thought the Crawford-Peterson volleyball war was as strange as it could get, things got even stranger.
After meeting once again in closed session — are we surprised? — last Thursday night, the Davis school board released a statement through president Gina Daleiden.
Said Daleiden: “The board has set the hearing date for the Crawford appeal of the Peterson complaint for March 13 in accordance with district policy on formal complaint/appeals.”
The hearing, of course, will be held behind closed doors with the public left to speculate, and wouldn’t you just love to have a nickel for every time you’ve heard the words “Davis school board” and “closed session” in the same sentence?
But wait, Daleiden wasn’t finished speaking on behalf of her colleagues, who endorsed her public statement 4-0, with Peterson having recused herself.
Added Daleiden: “The board strongly and unanimously urges the parties to enter mediation to settle this conflict. We want to state in the clearest terms that we want our district removed from the battlefield.”
A battlefield it is, but the board has done nothing to halt the hostilities other than to go into closed session at every opportunity and let the rumors run rampant.
“The Davis Joint Unified School District needs our resources, our focus and our energy to move forward with educating our students,” Daleiden said, deftly sidestepping the question of who, specifically, authorized spending $22,000 to hire three attorneys to write a 72-page report detailing this tragicomedy.
“The board encourages 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 our kids.”
As reported by Jeff Hudson in Friday’s Enterprise, “Daleiden made it clear that this ‘strong’ recommendation reflected the views of trustees Sheila Allen, Susan Lovenburg, Tim Taylor and herself.”
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.
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.
So are Julie Crawford and Rob Peterson, neither of whom were elected by anybody, now jointly setting policy for the Davis Joint Unified School District?
Suppose they meet with the mediator and decide that Julie should have a five-year contract to coach both the boys’ and girls’ volleyball teams, with Nancy Peterson and Rob Peterson serving as assistant coaches. Who gave them the authority to make such a decision?
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.
Barring Rob Peterson dropping his official complaint or Julie Crawford dropping her appeal, this white-hot volleyball is now squarely in the board’s court.
Here’s a novel idea. Ask the complainant, Rob Peterson, and the coach, Julie Crawford, if they’ll both waive confidentiality on this “personnel matter” and open up the March 13 hearing for everyone to see.
Maybe for another $22,000 the board’s trio of hired guns can give us an opinion on the legality of such an option.
You, board members, have talked about this never-ending drama off and on for months now. Almost always behind closed doors. You are in possession of the 72-page report that you won’t let anyone else see. So make a decision.
You have several choices here. First, you can reinstate Julie Crawford. Second, you can uphold Julie Crawford’s termination. Or third, you can pick from a wide variety of options between those two extremes.
But the decision is yours, not a mediator’s. That’s why we elected you.
Put simply, it’s time for the trustees of the Davis school board to act, and act decisively. Only you can put this thing to rest.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org