The Davis school board is preparing for a special meeting Thursday evening, when the trustees will go into closed session to consider Davis High School volleyball coach Julie Crawford’s appeal of an administrative decision not to renew her contract this season.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the school district office, 526 B St.
“The last couple of weeks have been extremely challenging for all of us who care about our schools, our community and our kids,” school board president Gina Daleiden said after a recent board meeting.
In an interview Friday with The Enterprise, Daleiden elaborated on what is to come.
“The board will review the complaint process and the details that have unfolded around it,” she explained. “Our objective in this appeal process is to assure fairness and due process for all.”
She also recapped the board’s role in the process thus far: “A formal complaint was filed at the district. Complaints, and investigations of complaints, are handled administratively on a case-by-case basis. The board is not involved in the administrative procedure” as complaints are investigated.
“The school board enters the process if, and when, there is an appeal,” Daleiden continued. Trustees Sheila Allen, Tim Taylor, Susan Lovenburg and Daleiden all voted to hear Crawford’s appeal. (Nancy Peterson, who has since resigned her seat on the board, recused herself from that vote since it involved a member of her family.)
“Once the board decides to hear the appeal, the board them become a quasi-judicial board, and must maintain impartiality,” Daleiden said. “This is why we (as trustees) cannot comment on the substance of the complaint or the handling of the complaint, including the investigation of the complaint, until after March 13″ when the appeal is heard in closed session.
“After March 13, the board will be released from the strict impartiality requirement, and we can express opinions on the whole process,” she said.
“As with any closed session, there will be an opportunity for public comment (at the outset), prior to the board going into closed session,” Daleiden continued. “The appeal will be heard in closed session, in accordance with administrative regulation 1312.3.”
She said because the discussion of the complaint might involve district staff as well as other students, the confidentiality of a closed session is required.
Daleiden added that the discussion may be attended by the employee filing the appeal (in this case, Crawford), who has the right to bring legal counsel. The parent filing the original complaint (in this case, Rob Peterson) is not included in the closed session. A presentation of the appeal will be made, the board members can ask questions, and then they will deliberate.
“When a decision is reached,” Daleiden said, “it is reported to the employee appealing and to district staff. Then the school board president makes the appropriate Brown Act announcement of the decision in open session.”
The decision that is announced by the school board is final, at least as far as the school district is concerned. It is possible that one of the parties might choose to go to court to appeal the board’s decision.
This sort of appeal “is not something we do frequently, but we have done it before,” Daleiden said, adding that most often, appeals involve student discipline issues, such as expulsion.
Nancy Peterson was elected to the Davis school board in November 2012 and twice voted against hiring Crawford to coach both girls and boys volleyball. After Crawford cut daughter Emma Peterson from the team last summer, as she was entering her senior season, Rob Peterson filed a formal complaint, alleging that the move was an act of retaliation.
The Davis school district hired an attorney to investigate the complaint and prepare a report at a cost of $22,041. The investigator concluded that “coach Crawford’s decision to cut (the Petersons’ daughter) from the girls volleyball program was influenced, in part, by her personal feelings about Nancy Peterson” but also added “at the same time (the investigator) does not find that coach Crawford acted with ‘willful mal-intent’ to harm (the Petersons’ daughter). … Rather, through no fault of her own, (the daughter) simply became a casualty of the ongoing ‘volleyball drama’ involving coach Crawford and Nancy Peterson.”
After the investigation was complete, the district informed Rob Peterson that “the district cannot reveal to you the specific disciplinary or corrective action taken with an employee. However, we can reassure you that the district intents to take appropriate action commensurate to the behavior and to prevent the discovered misconduct from happening again.”
Interim coaches later were hired for the boys volleyball season.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.