LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District’s governing Board will consider two action items on Friday morning directing Harris & Associates to cease work toward pre-qualifying third-party investigation/consultancy firms to review alleged discrimination and disparate treatment in student suspensions and expulsions and in the District’s hiring and promotional practices.
The Board will also consider whether to ratify $48,593 for the use of, and expenditure on, legal services by Harris & Associates as part of the consent calendar.
Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin and Clerk Amanda Parrell approved authorizing $400-an-hour attorney John W. Harris to pre-qualify a third-party firm for the two investigations during a special
meeting on April 18.
Trustees Jill McGrady and John Rush voted no. Student trustee Noah Sveiven also voted no.
The April 18 special meeting drew an overflow crowd to the boardroom despite being scheduled in the morning on a school day.
The Board majority dismissed concerns raised by more than a dozen District employees and private citizens, and ignored the legal advice of former longtime District general counsel Bridget Cook to approve the agreements.
Cook admonished the Board at the meeting, saying that if they know there is discrimination, or suspect that discrimination is taking place, it needed to be brought to the staff’s attention, “so that we can fulfill our responsibility so that we can continue to receive the funding that we are entitled to, so that we can continue to follow our Board policies. … That’s the Board’s responsibility, these are your policies.”
Davis, Ruffin and Parrell later fired Cook in closed session — in apparent violation of the Brown Act — at the Board’s May 9 meeting. Trustee John Rush voted no. Trustee Jill McGrady did not participate in the vote because she thought it was an illegal vote.
Davis and District Superintendent David Vierra met for three or four hours on May 18 “in a concerted effort to discuss the specific Board Governance issues impacting the District and community,” according to a statement released by the District on May 21.
They reached a consensus not to conduct the outside investigations. They also agreed for the Board to reconsider its decision to fire Cook.
Davis asked Vierra at the Board’s May 22 meeting to add to the Board’s next agenda, which is Friday’s meeting, an action item for the Board to consider seizing any further action to retain investigative firms. He also asked the Board to take another look into its decision to fire Cook.
The Board’s closed session agenda does not include any specific item related to Cook. Cook’s contract has been under closed session evaluation by the Board for four meetings prior to her dismissal.
The Board will meet at 10 a.m. Friday in the boardroom at the District office, 44811