In a surprise announcement, Davis school board trustee Nancy Peterson resigned Thursday evening, the latest move in a continuing dispute over the volleyball coach at Davis High School.
Her decision stunned her fellow board members and those in the audience at the Community Chambers at City Hall.
In addition, two district administrators have been dismissed from their current positions and reassigned to classroom duty, board president Gina Daleiden announced following a closed-session meeting Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether either is involved in the dispute between Peterson and coach Julie Crawford. Daleiden and Matt Best, assistant superintendent for human resources, declined further comment.
Reading from a prepared statement, Peterson referenced that controversy, which has made headlines and dominated public discussion since early February, when Crawford learned that she would not be rehired for the boys volleyball season.
“I believe the best way to serve all students is to defuse speculation and end further distractions so that the board may carefully deliberate the findings of the district’s report” covering the investigation of her family’s complaint against Crawford, Peterson said. “Therefore, I resign my position as a trustee for the Davis Joint Unified School District, effective immediately.
“It is no secret that the victim at the center of the complaint is my daughter, a student in this district,” Peterson continued. “Over the years, countless families have expressed fear about the perils of challenging staff when wrongdoing is perceived. Most do not speak up and I can understand their choices to remain silent.”
Peterson also observed that “this is a precedent-setting moment for our district. The result will set the tone for students and family engagement now and into the future.
“Moving forward, may we become more sensitive to and forever mindful of those who have not yet discovered the strength of their voices,” she said. “My sincere hope is that one day, this district can create and sustain a culture of advocacy and responsibility absent of fear.”
Peterson’s resignation raises questions about how her seat on the board will be filled. She was elected in November 2012 and her term would extend to November 2016.
According to board policy, the remaining trustees can either order an election or make a provisional appointment. Daleiden said the board hasn’t yet discussed which route it will take.
But a vacuum in leadership may be opening up on the board. Daleiden and trustees Tim Taylor and Sheila Allen each has served nearly nine years. Allen is running for the Davis City Council on June 3, and Taylor and Daleiden have not yet announced whether they intend to seek re-election.
The fourth remaining trustee is Susan Lovenburg, who was first elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. Her term extends to November 2016.
With Peterson’s departure, there are other logistical implications. The board will continue to need a three-vote majority to approve resolutions, even though there are currently only four trustees. And three trustees must be physically present for school board meetings to convene, and sometimes, members travel for business. On occasion, they participate in board meetings by telephone from out of town.
Speaking earlier Thursday, before Peterson’s announcement, DHS teacher Kelly Wilkerson told trustees that teachers are concerned and feel unsettled by the controversy.
Wilkerson said that while Crawford is “a respected colleague … I don’t know her well. I had hoped, and trusted, that the site administrative staff — larger now than it’s ever been — would look into any allegations and make a swift, and definitive, ruling so that our school, and the students involved, could move on.”
“What I never expected was the long and confusing odyssey that has transpired over the past several months. I know you (the trustees) have heard from hundreds of people. I’m here tonight because I want you to know how this has affected the teachers you employ.
“We are confused. And we are wary. We don’t understand the process that’s been used. We don’t understand why a private personnel matter has become so very public. And we really don’t understand the sudden, confusing turn last week — when the coach … was asked to hire a mediator to resolve her dispute herself.
“We wonder: Is this the new normal?” Wilkerson asked. “What if a parent lodges a complaint against us … should we expect an ad hoc response that changes weekly?”
Such a complaint was filed against Crawford last fall by Rob Peterson after his daughter was cut from the volleyball team before her senior season. During the prior two years, Nancy Peterson had lodged several oral complaints against the coach, raising concerns about inadequate supervision of players and mishandling of funds, among other issues.
As a school board member, Nancy Peterson twice voted against renewing Crawford’s contract as boys and girls volleyball coach.
The school district responded to the written complaint by assigning an attorney to investigate; he concluded that Crawford’s decision not to give the Petersons’ daughter a spot on the volleyball roster was a retaliatory move against Nancy Peterson. The report cost the district more than $22,000.
Although DHS Principal Will Brown and athletic director Dennis Foster signed off on Crawford’s variable services agreement for the current season, that VSA was not forwarded by administrators at the district office to the school board for approval.
Crawford has appealed that decision, which is scheduled to be heard by the school board in closed session on Thursday.
That hearing is expected to take place, despite the fact that the school board urged mediation as an approach to resolve the conflict between Peterson and Crawford. Mediation — which would have involved Crawford, the Peterson family and the school district — would have involved the willing participation of all parties, and at least one of the parties involved reportedly has rejected the request.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.