The Washoe County School Board has voted to terminate Superintendent Traci Davis for either willfully, or through gross negligence, allowing confidential information to be leaked and, ultimately, used against the district. The firing caps off nearly two weeks of speculation and heated controversy between Davis and the district. KUNR's Paul Boger was at Monday's meeting and has this report.
At a packed, four-hour special meeting, the board voted 6-1 to dismiss Davis with cause, with only Trustee Jacqueline Calvert voting against in opposition. Davis is accused of wrongdoing by allowing certain confidential information related to a 2017 lawsuit to be used against the district, either by leaking the information herself or by allowing subordinates to access the confidential documents.
For Board of Trustees President Katy Simon Holland, the act was a clear violation of Davis's fiduciary responsibilities as superintendent.
"This was very simply a matter of the district being presented with substantial evidence of the egregious conduct that was, at best, gross negligence of supervision on Ms. Davis's part as the CEO of the district, and possibly worse. That is why she was given notice and this special meeting was called to address it," Simon Holland said.
As evidence, Simon Holland points to nearly 300 pages of documentation that were obtained in late May as part of the discovery period related to the lawsuit. While the evidence released shows clear signs that a leak did occur, none of it implicates Davis directly. It's a point Davis, herself, made during the meeting. Speaking publicly for the first time since the allegations emerged, the former superintendent said she has always put the students enrolled in the Washoe County School system first.
"[The] things that I have heard circulating over the last few days are incorrect, and, sadly, they have been misrepresentations of the truth to the public," Davis said. "While I will not go through them one-by-one, I assure you, all I've done is to focus on preparing our children to have the best opportunity possible to take this world by storm."
The board's decision comes after nearly two weeks of confrontational back and forth between Davis and the district, specifically Board President Katy Simon Holland.
Last week, the situation culminated with Simon Holland closing the district's central offices when Davis said she wanted to return to work after a brief leave of absence. During the public comment portion of the meeting, several community members raised concerns that Davis's firing may be racially motivated. Davis brought up those same concerns to the Reno Gazette Journal last week.
At the meeting, longtime resident Norris Dupree said Davis faced undeserved scrutiny from the start.
"If she was a white male, or even a white woman, would she still get that type of treatment? And I'm talking about from the gate, from when she sat down it was a hot seat, right? This outcome was not a matter of why; it was a matter of when. They wanted her out of here," he said.
It's an assertion that Board President Simon Holland categorically denies.
"That is preposterous," she said. "Look at the diversity of this board. The conduct that was addressed and the evidence that the district was provided has no relationship to race, gender or any other category. It is merely a matter of conduct."
Others said Davis's ousting may help right some of the issues plaguing the district. Speaking during public comment, Hug High School Teacher Selena Hatch said that under Davis's watch, there has been a culture of intimidation and bullying, which ultimately led to low teacher morale.
"There is intimidation, harassment, bullying and unprofessional conduct, which have become norms in our school district, and this climate has been created from the top down," Hatch said. "It should be no surprise, whatsoever, that our staff is completely demoralized by this climate of fear and hostility. This climate was created by the harsh leadership of Superintendent Traci Davis, and until today, it seemed like it would continue unabated."
Speaking to the media, immediately following the board's decision, Davis indicated that she intends to explore her legal options.
"It'll be interesting to see what happens later. I mean, you know how this works. We walked in here knowing that this was going to be the outcome, and we also knew we were going to sue the district if the outcome wasn't appropriate," Davis said.
As of now, Deputy Superintendent Kristen McNeill will serve as the interim superintendent until the board of trustees makes a permanent hire. The board is expected to initiate that process at its next regularly scheduled meeting later this month.