After a special meeting that lasted over three hours, the Washoe County School Board fired Superintendent Traci Davis on Monday.
Hundreds of people showed up to the Washoe Country School District Board Administration Building for the July 1 meeting to vote on whether to terminate Davis’s employment or not. The parking lot was full by 7 a.m. and people streamed into the facility, quickly filling the general boardroom as well as three overflow rooms. In the next three hours that followed in a setting that could be compared to a courtroom in front of a panel of judges, the board heard opening statements from Davis and her attorney William Peterson.
In her statement, Davis said that there has been a lot of incorrect information going around about her alleged involvement in leaking confidential information which could have swayed the decision in a workplace investigation against the district. She maintained her innocence, sharing that although her and the board have had some “strong conversations” about certain issues, she hoped that her and the trustees have the same end goal in mind- to always maintain what’s best for the students. Davis’s attorney then asked the board to be “dedicated to finding the truth” and that there is no real evidence that connects her to the charges.
The meeting then opened to public comment, where 38 parents, teachers, and community members spoke about how they felt about the district, its leadership, and how they were handling the situation against Davis. Several teachers spoke out about experiencing fear, hostility, retaliation, and pressure to meet graduation rates at the expense of the students’ education within the district.
“Trying to meet meaningless graduation rates is hurting students and teachers,” one speaker says. He also stated that in an annual survey amongst staff, only 17 percent of employees felt satisfied with the WCSD as a place to work in 2018.
“I’m working four jobs to pay the bills and how much money Traci Davis makes does not sit well with me,” says a WCSD third year math teacher. “I don’t feel like I’m a part of the district,” she adds.
“The teachers are the ones in the trenches. Whatever you decide, I hope you can get through this quickly and start fresh,” another WCSD teacher says.
Amongst the speakers was Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung and Sparks Tribune opinion columnist and civil rights activist Andrew Barbano. There were other attendees who didn’t seem to care whether Davis was fired or not but were visibly disappointed in how the district was handling the situation.
“I besiege you to end this insularity in Washoe County. I’m disappointed that you use this day to (possibly) end her contract and embarrass her. This is an indictment on all of us,” Jung says.
This situation has also caught the attention of the Reno-Sparks NAACP as Davis has mentioned to the press that she has been a target of bullying and harassment from the district.
“We should be working together to make sure our children are getting the best education. The way minorities are being treated in the district is wrong and there are hidden agendas here,” another speaker brought up.
After the meeting, Board President Katy Simon Holland addressed the racial discrimination accusations by stating, “That is preposterous. The conduct that was addressed in the evidence the District was provided has no relationship to race, gender, or any other category.”
Towards the end of the public comment period, a woman spoke in front of the board stating for the record, “I’ve read through the 200-plus pages of evidence and I’ve heard some teachers speak…this isn’t about graduation rates. If we were aiding and abetting someone suing our employer, we would be gone. In the very least, she was negligent.”
After the two hours of public comment, the trustees then shared their views on what has transpired over the last two weeks and how they intended to vote regarding Davis and the alleged leak of confidential information.
Trustee Angela Taylor acknowledged that her decision wouldn’t be favorable but that as a board they needed to take immediate action to mitigate any more harm done to the 8,000 employees and 64,000 students.
“This is a highly emotionally charged issue and has been for the last two weeks. We’re past the point of no return,” Taylor says. As the first African American board member in the district, Taylor added, “This needs to end now in the most amicable way. (Restoring) stability, safety, and educating students in our facilities should be our number one priority.”
After the trustees’ comments, the board voted 6-1 to terminate Traci Davis’s contract.
What Happens Now?
Following the board’s decision to terminate Traci Davis, the meeting then segued into the second half of it, where the board unanimously named Dr. Kristen McNeill interim superintendent and they will discuss the hiring process for the next superintendent at the July 23 board meeting.
In accordance with Davis’s employment agreement in being terminated with cause, Davis will receive $122,412.79 in accrued unused sick time, vacation, earned benefits, and deferred compensation. If Davis contests her termination, then the issue will be handled in District Court.