2007 Year in Review–10 Biggest Vanguard Stories of 2007

As the first full year of the People’s Vanguard of Davis comes to completion, we will countdown the top 10 stories from year. This is the second year we have done this.

Last year we counted down the 10 Biggest Stories in Davis.

This year we countdown the 10 biggest stories that we followed on the People’s Vanguard of Davis.

We continue with the 3rd biggest story: Superintendent David Murphy gets fired.

On March 1, 2007, the Community Chambers was packed in anticipation of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force Report which was expected to recommend the closing of Valley Oak Elementary School. However, before this would happen, the very foundations of the community would be rocked by a very surprising announcement, with just a year to go on his contract Superintendent David Murphy announced he would be stepping down effective July and retiring.

In part of a statement to the board, he read:

“Since February 1, when I turned 60, my wife Robbie and I have been discussing what would be best for our family and with our life… It is now an appropriate time for me to conclude a wonderful era of 35 years of public service and spend more time with my family while we are all healthy and happy.”

At the time we would write:

“Longtime Superintendent David Murphy of the Davis Joint Unified School District stole the show last night with a surprise announcement that he was stepping down effective July. Citing family needs and personal changes, Superintendent Murphy said that the District would immediately appoint an acting Superintendent to aid in the transition and he would work with that individual as the Board sought a new full-time Superintendent.

While Murphy was heavily praised at this meeting, he has long been a source of great controversy both within the school district and in the community as a whole. It is no secret that the majority of school board members were not happy with his performance, however their hands were largely tied by an extension granted by a previous board on their way out.”

Quickly it would become clear that this was no voluntary retirement. Voluntary retirements do not have large severance pay associated.

It was really former school board member Joan Sallee who spilled the beans when she told the Davis Enterprise:

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Murphy’s retirement. … I am very sorry that the current school board did not see fit to retain his services. The district has suffered a grievous loss, at a time when we can least afford it.”

As the Vanguard speculated at the time:

“This has been a tumultuous year for the school district with a number of different financial scandals. In November of 2006, the board halted construction on a new King High School building. Allegations were made at that time by Board Member Jim Provenza that “shoddy practices in the business office have cost us” money on the project. He further said, “I’m happy we have a new chief budget officer (Colby) and (we’re) cleaning up the mess we’ve had in the past.

Earlier this month the project was re-approved with money from redevelopment funds. Board member Tim Taylor cast the lone, “no” vote and he too made allegations about irregularities in board money use. “For me, the issue is some financially funky stuff that’s gone on to get us to this point. It has absolutely nothing to do with King High.”

Another scandal in the last year was the Total School Solutions scandal which led to the resignation of a number of administrators. Total Schools Solutions is a Fairfield-based firm run by Tahir Ahad, who served as deputy superintendent for business services for the Davis School District from 1999 through May. Employees who worked at Total School Solutions while at the same time working for the school district were perceived to have a conflict of interest and this led to new conflict of interest regulations within the school district requiring disclosure of other employers that school district employees work for. At one point, the employees at Total School Solutions were largely made up of administrators from Davis Joint Unified who were simultaneously on the both payrolls.”

This is but the tip of the iceberg as we shall find out this coming year. However it was clear at the time that the current board was angry having been saddled with a three year last second contract extension by the previous board.

“The previous board was fiercely loyal to Superintendent Murphy and his staff. In fact, on their way out, one of their last actions before new members Gina Daleiden, Tim Taylor, and Sheila Allen took over was to extend Murphy’s contract until July 31, 2008, which had for all intents and purposes tied the hands of the new school board. Something that deeply upset several of the members of the current board.”

Within a week, the board would announce their interim replacement, Richard Whitmore. Controversy would arise due to the fact that David Murphy would be receiving severance pay at the same time the board was paying a new superintendent.

“The Davis Enterprise reported last night that “recently resigned” Superintendent David Murphy will continue to receive his salary until mid 2008 (when his contract would have expired). The district would pay Murphy approximately $225,000.

A week ago, Superintendent David Murphy surprised many in the community by announcing his retirement. Already the Davis Enterprise is calling it a “resignation.”

This represents mounting evidence however that Murphy was in fact involuntarily terminated. One would not receive a settlement package for merely retiring or even resigning. This arrangement pretty much confirms our suggestion last Sunday that Murphy was in fact fired.

According to the Davis Enterprise:

“Over the coming three months, ending May 31, Murphy will “focus his efforts on mutually agreed-upon duties,” including completion of a reference manual outlining the superintendent’s duties and responsibilties (sic). Murphy also will use accrued vacation time.”

A couple of points that need to clarified. First, the District is paying David Murphy $225,000 of taxpayer money not to work. That is a pretty strong statement there.

Second, we need to remind the public that it was the outgoing school board with BJ Kline, Joan Sallee, and Marty West that as one of their last acts, decided to extend the contract of David Murphy and made it extremely difficult for the incoming school board to terminate an employee that they believed was doing a poor job. Those members cost the Davis taxpayers and perhaps the students a tremendous amount.”

This of course, in a city like Davis spawned controversy and letters to the editor.

George Warner writes:

Let’s see if I have this straight. We’re paying one school superintendent $168,000 for an $80,000 job and another $235,000 for sitting on his hands for a year or so.

Barbara Wochok writes:

Under a “complex settlement,” nearly $300,000 in taxpayer dollars will support two superintendents during one year. One will be housed at the district office, one not.

Obviously, administrators matter more than students at Valley Oak. Taxpayer dollars are taxpayer dollars. Once again the money goes to the top, not to the classroom. How sad!

My perspective at time is that the school district had little choice but to do this, even if it meant biting a small financial bullet with a one-time severance payment.

As I wrote at the time:

What would be nice is if the local paper instead of writing editorials about how much we will miss David Murphy, actually reported the truth about what Murphy did and why he was likely fired. We have talked about the King High debacle here several times, but do these people understand that the district lost nearly $5 million in matching funds because it failed to meet deadlines? A fact that was buried in a paragraph near the end of the editorial on Sunday. Let’s see five million versus $200,000. Hmmm…. Someone want to do the math here.

Mr. Whitmore earned high praise from Board President Jim Provenza and Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Delaine Eastin.

Board President Jim Provenza called Whitmore, “a leader who excels in managing both the education of children and business and financial operations that are so crucial to school districts.”

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin speaks very highly of Mr. Whitmore. According to The Davis Enterprise:

During his years with the state, Whitmore worked closely with then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, a Davis resident who attended Monday night’s meeting of the Davis school board. Eastin called Whitmore “an inspired choice for interim superintendent” in Davis, and added, “I can think of no finer education leader.”

“His extraordinary intelligence, integrity and administrative skills will serve this great district very well indeed,” Eastin said. “Richard will work closely with his board and his staff, keeping them engaged and well-informed.”

Meanwhile the Davis Enterprise did not hesitate to lavish praise on the departed Superintendent.

Columnist Bob Dunning wrote that the “town owes Murphy a standing ovation.”

“Like most superintendents, David Murphy had his supporters and his detractors … it comes with the territory … it would be impossible to be a superintendent of schools in Davis and make hard decisions without someone taking a shot at you, including the local daily columnist …”

“Yes, I’ve had a few disagreements with David Murphy during his tenure here, but none that made me question his integrity, his dedication or his desire to make the Davis district the best it could be “

Richard Whitmore would oversee a tumultuous time for the school board, one of his first meetings in fact was the decision to close Valley Oak.

On August 22, 2007, the school board announced the hiring of a new superintendent, James Hammond.

Board President Jim Provenza:

“The Board is pleased that Dr. Hammond has accepted the offer to lead our oustanding schools to new levels of excellence and achievement… Throughout his career as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent Dr. Hammond has demonstrated intelligent and inspiring leadership, and a deep passion for well being and academic achievement of all students, including those who are struggling to succeed. He is a rising star in public school administration. We are lucky to have him.”

This was one decision where all five members of the board enthusiastically backed:

“Davis Board member Gina Daleiden expressed confidence that Dr. Hammond is the right leader for the Davis schools.

“Our extensive conversations with Tukwila school, parent, and community leaders revealed that Dr. Hammond is widely regarded as an extraordinary leader. Colleagues describe him as courageous in his decisions, and have enormous respect for his superb communications and managerial skills.”

Board Member Sheila Allen, who later was downright giddy added:

“The Tukwila staff emphasized that Dr Hammond fosters a culture of collaboration and teamwork that brings out the best in people. His enthusiasm and energy are contagious!”

Board Member Tim Taylor:

“Dr. Hammond has the extensive experience and proven leadership qualities our board desired in a new superintendent. He also has a genuine affection for students, and in return has their trust and admiration. It’s a pleasure to welcome him to the Davis Joint Unified School District.”

Board Member Keltie Jones:

“I am delighted with Dr. Hammond’s appointment. He brings a fresh level of energy and creativity to our district.” “

The Vanguard caught up with the new superintendent that evening:

For his part, the new superintendent seems excited but a bit overwhelmed.

“Just a little sense of being overwhelmed but at the same time very excited. From my initial interactions, just an exciting dynamic community. People value the schools. People value the kids. The quality of education, so it’s just an exciting time for me personally.”

Overall, it was an extremely eventful year for the school district. For good measure, Dr. Hammond already had to step in defuse a brewing battle between the district and the supporters of the Valley Oak Charter School.

Furthermore it seems that supporters of David Murphy, particularly former board members Joan Sallee and Marty West went out of their way to dredge up past controversies. In an op-ed, they accused the current board of fiscal mismanagement. As most will see in the coming weeks, the problem rests not with the current board but with the past board and the superintendent. (See the Vanguard’s follow up as well).

For all of this, the firing of David Murphy is the third biggest Vanguard story of 2007.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Budget/Taxes

24 comments

  1. The silence from readers with respect to this article is deafening. The corruption going on in our school district/on our school board is scandalous and unacceptable. I am looking forward to DPD’s new revelations, that should shake the very foundations of this city.

  2. The silence from readers with respect to this article is deafening. The corruption going on in our school district/on our school board is scandalous and unacceptable. I am looking forward to DPD’s new revelations, that should shake the very foundations of this city.

  3. The silence from readers with respect to this article is deafening. The corruption going on in our school district/on our school board is scandalous and unacceptable. I am looking forward to DPD’s new revelations, that should shake the very foundations of this city.

  4. The silence from readers with respect to this article is deafening. The corruption going on in our school district/on our school board is scandalous and unacceptable. I am looking forward to DPD’s new revelations, that should shake the very foundations of this city.

  5. Amen anonymous! 2008 will be a good year for DPD and the Vanguard. He seems to be shedding light on a lot of “underbelly happenings.”

    Happy New Year David Greenwald and the Vanguard!! You’re a rock star!

  6. Amen anonymous! 2008 will be a good year for DPD and the Vanguard. He seems to be shedding light on a lot of “underbelly happenings.”

    Happy New Year David Greenwald and the Vanguard!! You’re a rock star!

  7. Amen anonymous! 2008 will be a good year for DPD and the Vanguard. He seems to be shedding light on a lot of “underbelly happenings.”

    Happy New Year David Greenwald and the Vanguard!! You’re a rock star!

  8. Amen anonymous! 2008 will be a good year for DPD and the Vanguard. He seems to be shedding light on a lot of “underbelly happenings.”

    Happy New Year David Greenwald and the Vanguard!! You’re a rock star!

  9. Maybe there is ‘silence’ because this is not as ‘controversial’ as you want to make it out to be. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’. This blog and many of its frequentors thrive on painting a more extreme picture than the one that really exists. But what else can be expected in the People’s Republic of Davis?

  10. Maybe there is ‘silence’ because this is not as ‘controversial’ as you want to make it out to be. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’. This blog and many of its frequentors thrive on painting a more extreme picture than the one that really exists. But what else can be expected in the People’s Republic of Davis?

  11. Maybe there is ‘silence’ because this is not as ‘controversial’ as you want to make it out to be. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’. This blog and many of its frequentors thrive on painting a more extreme picture than the one that really exists. But what else can be expected in the People’s Republic of Davis?

  12. Maybe there is ‘silence’ because this is not as ‘controversial’ as you want to make it out to be. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’. This blog and many of its frequentors thrive on painting a more extreme picture than the one that really exists. But what else can be expected in the People’s Republic of Davis?

  13. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’

    Actually, they do equate to corruption when it is not reported in the local paper and and when it is covered up by the board and others.

    Definition of Corruption (DJUSD) under prior administration:

    noun
    1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]
    2. in a state of progressive putrefaction [syn: putrescence]
    3. decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation)
    4. moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles; “the luxury and corruption among the upper classes”; “moral degeneracy followed intellectual degeneration”; “its brothels, its opium parlors, its depravity”; “Rome had fallen into moral putrefaction”
    5. destroying someone’s (or some group’s) honesty or loyalty; undermining moral integrity; “corruption of a minor”; “the big city’s subversion of rural innocence”
    6. inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by committing a felony); “he was held on charges of corruption and racketeering”

  14. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’

    Actually, they do equate to corruption when it is not reported in the local paper and and when it is covered up by the board and others.

    Definition of Corruption (DJUSD) under prior administration:

    noun
    1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]
    2. in a state of progressive putrefaction [syn: putrescence]
    3. decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation)
    4. moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles; “the luxury and corruption among the upper classes”; “moral degeneracy followed intellectual degeneration”; “its brothels, its opium parlors, its depravity”; “Rome had fallen into moral putrefaction”
    5. destroying someone’s (or some group’s) honesty or loyalty; undermining moral integrity; “corruption of a minor”; “the big city’s subversion of rural innocence”
    6. inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by committing a felony); “he was held on charges of corruption and racketeering”

  15. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’

    Actually, they do equate to corruption when it is not reported in the local paper and and when it is covered up by the board and others.

    Definition of Corruption (DJUSD) under prior administration:

    noun
    1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]
    2. in a state of progressive putrefaction [syn: putrescence]
    3. decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation)
    4. moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles; “the luxury and corruption among the upper classes”; “moral degeneracy followed intellectual degeneration”; “its brothels, its opium parlors, its depravity”; “Rome had fallen into moral putrefaction”
    5. destroying someone’s (or some group’s) honesty or loyalty; undermining moral integrity; “corruption of a minor”; “the big city’s subversion of rural innocence”
    6. inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by committing a felony); “he was held on charges of corruption and racketeering”

  16. Allegations of scandal and corruption in DJUSD are a bit too much. Unsound financial decisions and weak leadership do not equate with ‘corruption’

    Actually, they do equate to corruption when it is not reported in the local paper and and when it is covered up by the board and others.

    Definition of Corruption (DJUSD) under prior administration:

    noun
    1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]
    2. in a state of progressive putrefaction [syn: putrescence]
    3. decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation)
    4. moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles; “the luxury and corruption among the upper classes”; “moral degeneracy followed intellectual degeneration”; “its brothels, its opium parlors, its depravity”; “Rome had fallen into moral putrefaction”
    5. destroying someone’s (or some group’s) honesty or loyalty; undermining moral integrity; “corruption of a minor”; “the big city’s subversion of rural innocence”
    6. inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by committing a felony); “he was held on charges of corruption and racketeering”

  17. “1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]”

    Come mid to late January, you will see both of these proven.

  18. “1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]”

    Come mid to late January, you will see both of these proven.

  19. “1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]”

    Come mid to late January, you will see both of these proven.

  20. “1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain [syn: corruptness] [ant: incorruption]”

    Come mid to late January, you will see both of these proven.

Leave a Comment