Local News

School board wants changes to complaint process

By From page A3 | May 16, 2014

Revising complaint forms, establishing a special task force, making policy changes: These were a few of the solutions the Davis Board of Education proposed Thursday night to revamp the district’s complaint process.

The trustees agreed they want to avoid large-scale, expensive investigations into matters that could have been resolved by the concerned parties at lower levels.

“The crises we’ve experienced, not just the largest over volleyball … highlights some definite weaknesses in the policies and regulations that we have,” said trustee Gina Daleiden. She was referring to a complaint filed by former trustee Nancy Peterson’s husband against Davis High School volleyball coach Julie Crawford that cost more than $22,000 to investigate.

“We want some ways to address issues before they blow up and we end up thousands of dollars into something and a lot of man-hours and anxieties,” Daleiden said.

Three separate complaint forms are available — a student, uniform and general form — for grievances to be officially lodged against the school district or its employees.

Trustee Alan Fernandes was on the dais for the first time since he was appointed May 5 by the board to fill the seat vacated by Peterson when she resigned in March following the volleyball dispute. He pointed out that nowhere on complaint forms does it encourage the complainant to resolve the matter through dialogue at the lower level.

Trustee Tim Taylor argued for a “pre-complaint” process to catch and resolve issues before a complaint form is even filled out.

While certain complaints deserve thorough investigation, “there are very few complaints that are actually that serious in nature,” Daleiden said. “It’s conflict that could be resolved by one, two, three, however many people, with some mechanisms in place.”

Daleiden also asked for a clear policy on complaints involving a board member or a member’s family, a policy that does not currently exist.

But mechanisms to resolve disputes without resorting to formal complaints remained unclear as the members brainstormed ideas.

“How could we create some sort of safer space for concerns to be aired in a way that could be addressed at the lower level?” trustee Susan Lovenburg pondered. The board asked staff to come back with recommended changes to the overall complaint policy.

The school board is also considering a new “athletics council” to handle disputes involving the district’s sports teams.

Mike Satre, DHS junior varsity football coach, who is leading the effort, assembled a working group of 18 coaches from 12 boys, girls and mixed sports teams to look at “how we can come up with, facilitate or expand and make better our current process by which we could examine issues, complaints,” he told the board.

The proposed athletics council would be made up of two coaches and one community member, and would consider issues only if other methods of resolution — like talking with the team coach, varsity coach, athletic director and principal — were exhausted.

The working group’s second task is to draft an overall mission statement for the district’s athletics, Satre said.

“We’ve looked looked at existing documents,” Satre said. “There’s an interesting gamut in terms of what’s been laid out. … We want to make sure that we’re very philosophically unified.”

The board also heard a report on the district’s Montessori Master Plan, written over the course of five meetings since late January.

Associate Superintendent Clark Bryant, who presented the draft of the plan, said “if the program (at Birch Lane Elementary) continues to grow … at some point we address the issue of the capacities … or the need to find a different location.”

An agenda item to consider contracts for associate superintendents Bryant, Bruce Colby and Matt Best was postponed until June. The contracts include a 2-percent raise for each person.

Adrian Glass-Moore

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