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Coaches turn out to hear athletics policy update

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Davis Board of Education member Nancy Peterson listens as Davis High School boys golf coach Karl Ronning addresses the trustees Thursday evening. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | February 21, 2014 | 11 Comments

Though no tangible action was taken on the reworking of the school district’s athletics policy — nor on the Julie Crawford appeal that brought the recent string of Davis High coaching hiring and firing issues back into the news — Thursday’s school board meeting offered Blue Devil coaches, members of the public and trustees the opportunity to comment on both matters.

More than 20 current and former DHS coaches — including Crawford — were among the crowd of 50-plus people who attended the meeting. The coaches came out because of the school board’s promise to discuss changes to the district’s administrative regulations concerning athletics.

The night opened with discussion about Crawford’s appeal. She says she was told earlier this month — less than a week before she was to begin tryouts for the upcoming boys volleyball season — that her variable services agreement to coach the boys would not be renewed.

Following a closed session Thursday, which was listed on the agenda as “Conference with legal counsel — existing litigation … Crawford/Peterson appeal procedures,” school board president Gina Daleiden began the open session with a statement explaining what they had talked about.

“Tonight in closed session, we gave direction to our legal counsel regarding the Crawford appeal,” Daleiden said, adding that the appeal will be heard in closed session.

“The question on appeal will be whether the administration’s conclusions are supported by a preponderance of evidence and whether the administrative remedy is appropriate to the conclusions.”

No date was given for the appeal hearing.

Crawford, the DHS boys and girls volleyball coach, is appealing an investigative finding that she violated board policy when she cut Emma Peterson from the girls team last fall.

A complaint was filed by Rob Peterson, Emma’s father and the husband of school board member Nancy Peterson, in September after his daughter — who had been a varsity player since she was a sophomore — was cut from the team before her senior season.

Earlier, Nancy Peterson had lodged several oral complaints about Crawford during the 2012-13 school year.

Following the official complaint, the district hired attorney Alex Sperry to investigate and he wrote in his findings that ”more likely than not, Coach Crawford’s decision to cut Emma Peterson from the varsity volleyball team was influenced, at least in part, by Coach Crawford’s feelings about Nancy Peterson.”

He added that Crawford’s action was in violation of Board Policy 1312.1, which “prohibits retaliation against a complainant who brings an oral or written complaint against a district employee.”

At a school board meeting on Feb. 13 — with Nancy Peterson recusing herself from public comment, closed session and voting on the matter — the trustees voted to hear Crawford’s appeal.

Daleiden’s statement at the start of Thursday’s meeting explained that “the board is not involved in a complaint nor an investigation of a complaint until an appeal is requested. The board’s first entry point into the Crawford/Peterson matter was (Feb. 13) when we voted to hear the appeal.”

‘Distortions, lies’

During public comment, Rob Peterson spoke about his frustration with “distortions and lies” in the media coverage and online comments made by the public about this issue. He became somewhat animated when talking about online references to his children, saying, “we’ve gone past harassment to craziness and I would appeal to the board to end this situation.”

In other public comment, club volleyball coach Rob Cole voiced his displeasure with the district’s “mismanagement” of his situation. Cole told The Enterprise last week that he had signed a contract with the district on the morning of Feb. 14 to take over as interim Blue Devils boys volleyball coach.

Six hours later, he says he got a call from Superintendent Winfred Roberson, saying the district was going in a different direction. Employees are not officially hired until the board votes to approve employment.

Ron Duer and Jordan Friend, who were set to be Crawford’s assistant coaches this springs, had their VSAs to take over as interim coaches confirmed along with several other new district employees at Thursday’s meeting.

The board spent more than 20 minutes discussing changes to the district’s athletics policy with Roberson and Assistant Superintendent Matt Best, who started the discussion by laying out the reasons for the updates to those documents:

“The goal (is) to increase transparency in our athletic policies and administrative regulations by clarifying expectations, which will allow us to clean up our procedures in athletics,” he said.

After this discussion, during which trustees recommended some changes in wording to several parts of the document and urged Best to meet with coaches again to get more input, the coaches themselves had a chance to make public comments.

Coaches turn out

DHS girls tennis coach Sally Hosley spoke first, and was followed by boys golf coach Karl Ronning. The veteran golf coach and math teacher at Davis High said he liked the athletics policy’s overall theme of what he called “an expectation of excellence.”

“But what I found missing from these expectations is what can we as coaches reasonably expect when we attain this excellence?” Ronning asked. “Who do we answer to? Is it the athletic director? Because one of the things that seems absent to me is the role of the athletic director in these controversies.

“Do we have a reasonable expectation that when there is a complaint … that we will be informed? Or are we going to find out about it second-hand? And it is this uncertainty … that I find very disturbing.”

Two other Blue Devil coaches spoke up during public comment, but it was the pure turnout of coaches in the audience that was designed to make the biggest statement.

The DHS coaches are keenly interested in the district’s reworking of its athletics policy after several of their brethren have either been ousted or stepped down amid controversy in the past three years.

In January 2011, Jeff Christian was fired in the middle of his sixth season as Blue Devil girls basketball coach following a dispute that caused him to remove two members of his team. Christian’s dismissal came after a district decision and a school board vote.

That spring, Amanda Ryan coached the DHS girls golf team into the postseason, but she learned she wouldn’t be rehired for a second season when she saw the golf coach job posted on the school district’s website.

Next, legendary Devil boys soccer coach Ashley Yudin — who was in attendance Thursday night — was planning on coaching his 20th campaign in the fall of 2012 before changing his mind and retiring a month before the season. At the time, he mentioned frustration with administration about the handling of the DHS soccer field as a big part of his decision.

Before the 2013 fall season, it was Steve Smyte ending his career as Blue Devil football coach earlier than planned following a June meeting about the direction of the program with Best and Davis High athletic director Dennis Foster.

That same week, Crawford was told she would not be back as Devil girls coach in the fall, a decision that was later reversed by a school board vote. Crawford coached the Davis girls into the playoffs last season while the investigation was underway.

More recently, Blue Devil boys basketball coach Dan Gonzalez stepped down for a few days in September — citing differences with the administration regarding the hiring of his program’s coaching staff — before changing his mind and coaching DHS this winter.

— Reach Chris Saur at csaur@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8049.

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Discussion | 11 comments

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  • February 21, 2014 - 8:55 am

    So in total, Nancy Peterson filed 2 oral complaints and 3 written complaints about Coach Crawford? Or is it 3 oral and 3 written? If the previous 4 or 5 complaints were deemed unworthy, isn't this a pattern worth addressing?

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  • Michelle MilletFebruary 21, 2014 - 11:28 am

    I believe the district just spent $22,000 addressing the problem.

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  • February 21, 2014 - 1:50 pm

    The district spent or wasted $22,000 addressing the problem?

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  • EdFebruary 22, 2014 - 12:37 am

    The whole thing is comically mismanaged. And it's still not clear what the actual issue is here. What exactly is the allegation against the coach? What improper reason has been proposed as underlying the coach's decision to cut Peterson's daughter? It seems the only retaliation is the firing of Crawford because a member of the school board had a kid who didn't get a spot on the team. What's missing from the story?

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  • February 22, 2014 - 8:33 am

    Two missing details of interest: 1. Mrs. Peterson's daughter was never cut from the team. All aspiring players must try out each season, even those who have played on the varsity team previously. The coach (and advisors) then choose their squad for the season based upon a large number of variables. In addition to performance, the players must function as a cohesive and positive team to succeed. Negative or disruptive personalities (including abrasive or aggressive family members) are of course a factor in the final decision. It's the coach's job to make those difficult calls and assemble a functional and winning team (which this coach has done repeatedly as her record clearly shows). 2. Mrs. Peterson was herself the assistant coach of the DHS girl's varsity volleyball squad a few years back. When the head coach moved on, she did not become the head coach. Is it so hard to how this basic fact colors this entire story and potentially explains subsequent complaints, verbal and written?

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  • February 22, 2014 - 9:51 am

    It cuts both ways. Big missing detail, the Coach was never cut from the team. All coaches must go through a rehire process after each season. The district then chooses the coach for the season based upon a large number of variables. In addition to performance, the coach must function as a cohesive and positive district employee to succeed. Negative or disruptive personalities (including abrasive or aggressive coaching) are of course a factor in the final decision. It's the district's job to make those difficult calls and staff a functional coaching team.

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  • February 22, 2014 - 10:21 am

    That's interesting about the annual rehire process for coaches. My first thought: I sure wish we'd ditch the tenure option for teachers and only rehire after a review. "The district then chooses the TEACHER for the season based upon a large number of variables. In addition to performance, the TEACHER must function as a cohesive and positive district employee to succeed. Negative or disruptive personalities (including abrasive or aggressive classroom behavior, i.e., teachers favoring certain students and bullying others) are of course a factor in the final decision. It's the district's job to make those difficult calls and staff a functional TEACHING team." Cuts sometimes need to be made, and the tenure system makes that virtually impossible. We should be doing what is right for the students, not for the teachers, staff , administrators or school board.

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  • February 23, 2014 - 10:18 am

    Yes, you're absolutely right about the renewal of coaches contracts. And if the system actually worked this way at DHS, none of this kerfuffle would have happened over and over again for several coaches. Instead, in this instance, first the athletic director then the next year the superintendent refused to submit Ms. Crawford's contract for fear of losing their jobs. In this way, the school board can claim they had nothing to do with the snafu because they never saw the contract. How convenient when in fact they've been deeply involved from day one and have created a climate of fear among administrators and coaches which is unhealthy and unprofessional.

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  • February 22, 2014 - 12:33 pm

    First Dr. Peterson leaks info from what should be restricted info from the investigation and then goes on a rant at this meeting. Both throwing fuel on the fire. If this is the lack of good judgement he routinely shows, I sure wouldn't want him performing surgery on me!

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  • OLD DHS ParentFebruary 23, 2014 - 3:55 pm

    Amazing how the internet has brought a kind of date order to of all of Nancy Peterson attempts to become a Coach and then get her son's Club coach inserted into the coaching position once she was unable to get it herself. Did she get on the School Board with an agenda in mind? It seems that the problems all started before she joined the board. Time for the end of this nasty business.

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  • February 24, 2014 - 12:33 am

    It is amazing how the internet has allowed people without any personal knowledge or facts come to false conclusions and make false allegations.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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