After deliberating for more than four hours in closed session Thursday, the Davis Board of Education voted 3-1 to deny Julie Crawford a volleyball coaching job at Davis High School, upholding the school district’s administrative decision.
The four remaining members of the board — trustee Nancy Peterson, whose family filed the complaint against Crawford, resigned last week — came out of closed session shortly after 11 p.m. to announce the vote and comment on it.
Trustees Tim Taylor, Susan Lovenburg and Sheila Allen voted to uphold the administration’s action in the Crawford/Peterson case; trustee Gina Daleiden voted nay.
The Peterson family complained after Crawford cut their daughter from the team at the beginning of her senior season, alleging that it was done in retaliation against Nancy Peterson, who had voted several times to deny her a coaching position. That complaint was investigated by a team of attorneys hired by the school district; they concluded that, while Crawford’s roster decision “was influenced, in part, by her personal feelings about Nancy Peterson” the action was not taken with “willful mal-intent” to harm the student.
Crawford declined to comment on the board’s decision. Several of her supporters — including members of the girls volleyball team, who read statements supporting the coach written by members of the boys volleyball team during public comment, as well as parents who spoke in support of Crawford — sat silently after the decision was announced.
The DHS boys will continue to be mentored this season by two interim coaches, but the board “directed that Julie Crawford be permitted to apply for any future coaching positions,” including the job of girls volleyball coach this fall, and presumably the boys coaching position next winter.
“There has been a lot of bleeding in the community over this issue,” trustee Tim Taylor said. “I think everyone would and should agree that it is time for the bleeding to stop.”
He added that it is time for the community to move forward, but acknowledged, “it is not going to be easy,” especially for those who disagree with the board’s decision.
“You can’t always find the easy road, and even if you find it, it’s not always the right road,” Taylor concluding, indicating that some of the information he had heard during the closed session had influenced his vote.
Trustee Sheila Allen read from a lengthy prepared statement, which addressed multiple issues involving high school athletics and school board actions in recent years. Allen said she was sorry that volleyball coaches were not in place for the start of the season in three recent years, thanked coaches for their dedication and spoke of efforts to improve the system of evaluating coaches when they are up for renewal.
Allen also said she is “very concerned about social media postings that occurred around this issue” and mentioned “the tone and the accusations made behind a facade of anonymous comments” as being particularly troubling.
Trustee Susan Lovenburg spoke briefly, saying, “I think we’ve done the right thing” but acknowledging that the board’s decision “is not going to make everybody happy.” She added that she hopes the community “will take something good out of this situation.”
School board president Gina Daleiden — stressing that she was speaking as an individual trustee — offered remarks regarding her dissenting vote: “I do believe our district’s response to complaints need to be in proportion,” she said, adding, “I do believe in this instance the district went Code 3 on something that maybe did not warrant that. … I did not find a preponderance of evidence to support (the administration’s) findings and conclusions.”
Daleiden added that there “may be some policies we need to fix, we ended up jumping right into the deep end of the pool. I would have liked to see this resolved at a lower level, maybe earlier. … This particular case has shown that the district needs to look at how we take care of complaints,” referencing “the time, the energy, the money and the attorneys we have put into this type of process.”
At the same time, Daleiden extended an olive branch to her colleagues, with whom she differed.
“Reasonable people can disagree. … I absolutely believe they hold the whole district in their hearts and minds when they make choices.”
Daleiden also suggested that coaches need “more discretion” when selecting which student-athletes will be on a team, how much playing time they will get and how the coach will work with his or her players. She said it is “very, very difficult for me personally, and as an elected representative, to act within the policies that cover our school district and how we handle appeals. They sometimes seem in conflict with the bigger picture for me.”
As Thursday night’s meeting ended, Daleiden said the next regularly scheduled board meeting next Thursday probably will not be held due to scheduling conflicts. Instead, there may be a brief special meeting on the morning of Friday, March 21, to approve the school district’s state-mandated second interim budget, followed by another meeting in early April to handle other business.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.