AVUHSD Board

Former Antelope Valley Union High School District General Counsel Bridget Cook (second from right) speaks at Thursday night’s governing Board meeting held in Littlerock High School’s theater. The Board voted to fire Cook, a longtime district employee.

LITTLEROCK — Antelope Valley Union High School District’s Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin, and Clerk Amanda Parrell fired longtime District General Counsel Bridget Cook during an approximately two-hour closed session Thursday night.

Cook was placed on paid administrative leave and given a 45-day notice, according to a report read out of closed session by Davis.

The vote was 3-1, with trustee John Rush dissenting.

“Publicly, I would like to say I think it was an illegal vote and I took no part in it,” trustee Jill McGrady said, according to a video of the post-closed session report.

Littlerock High School hosted the Board meeting in its theater to accommodate the large crowds that have been turning out for meetings since the Board majority took control of the District.

Cook’s contract has been under closed session evaluation by the Board for the past four meetings.

“In more than 20 years representing Antelope Valley Union High School District, Bridget Cook led various efforts including compliance and regulatory matters,” AVUHSD Superintendent David Vierra said in a statement. “Her specialty in Special Education is unique and over the course of her tenure, her professional expertise and contributions have saved the District countless dollars. We are disappointed to lose Ms. Cook and know that it will be very difficult to replace her level of expertise.”

The Board has also evaluated Vierra’s contract for the past five meetings, although the previous Board conducted its annual evaluation of the superintendent last November.

Cook’s current employment contract is good through June 30, 2020. It rolled over automatically last year when she did not receive a 45-day notice that her contract would not be renewed on June 30, 2018. The contract renewed on July 1, 2018.

“The Board failed to provide Brown Act notice that I was being disciplined or released and the matter was not agendized for action. Failure to follow the Brown Act makes an action null and void,” Cook wrote via email.

Cook started with the District as a science teacher. She also taught social studies and world history. Cook substituted while she was working toward her juris doctorate. Cook was hired to work on special education, suspensions, and expulsions. She provided a wide range of services supporting all divisions of the District.

Cook conducted staff trainings, investigations, employee discipline, complaints management, contract review, public records act requests, special education litigation, and expulsion matters. She represented the District at administrative hearings before the Public Employees Relations Board, Office of Administrative Hearings and Los Angeles County Office of Education. She also trained, supported and mentored hundreds of employees in her 21 years as General Counsel. Cook sat on the dais as the Board’s attorney since 2001.

“In 2006, the Board ordered an independent review of a small sample of special education due process matters handled by the Office of the General Counsel. The audit revealed that I saved the District $2 million dollars that year.  In addition, the District receives a $200 an-hour reimbursement up to $200,000 per year, for my billing on special education matters that I handle from Self-Insured Schools of California (SISC) Special Education Voluntary Coverage Program (SEVCP),” Cook wrote.

That means Cook essentially paid for herself. Her base salary was $183,748 a year. She also received a $2,000 stipend for longevity, and a $3,500 stipend for her doctorate.

jdrake@avpress.com

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