LANCASTER — Former Antelope Valley Union High School District trustee Donita Winn, a longtime advocate for children who has dedicated about 30 years to volunteering, was informed Friday afternoon that her status as a volunteer for the high school District has been suspended.
Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin, and Clerk Amanda Parrell voted in closed session Thursday night — with trustees Jill McGrady and John Rush dissenting — to authorize a personnel investigation to be conducted by an independent, outside investigator, according to the action reported out of closed session on agenda item F. Public Employee. Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Reassignment/Nonreelect (Government Code 54957).
It is not known how much the investigation will cost the District.
The report out of closed session did not include any names. However, Winn was informed Friday afternoon that approval for her to act as a volunteer has been suspended, pending a personnel investigation to be conducted by an independent, outside investigator.
Winn is a private citizen who volunteers countless hours on behalf of children in the Valley.
Following the Board majority’s action, Winn is not authorized to act as a volunteer in District schools or programs, or to access District school sites and facilities in that capacity until further notice, according to the notice from the District.
Winn has served as a Board-approved volunteer for the past four years.
Davis, Ruffin and Parrell’s action appears to be in retaliation against Winn’s support of the recall effort against them.
Winn was at Littlerock High School on Sept. 5 for a back-to-school night with supporters of the recall effort, including McGrady, who were collecting signatures when a woman who identified herself as a friend of Ruffin verbally accosted them.
Littlerock High is in Ruffin’s trustee area.
The woman criticized the group for collecting signatures, claimed the action was illegal, and called the recall a farce. The woman took pictures and video of the group, primarily McGrady, Winn recalled.
Winn was blindsided by the news Friday afternoon.
“Are they trying to stifle my freedom of speech?” she asked.
For years, Winn volunteered at the schools her daughters attended. She continues to volunteer for Lancaster School District. Winn started volunteering with the high school District in 1992 when her oldest daughter started high school.
Winn led a successful bond campaign in 1999 for Lancaster School District and then another in 2002 for the high school District. She served again in 2004 for a bond campaign with Antelope Valley College.
Winn was appointed to serve on the AV Union High School Board in 2002 to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of trustee Darrel Brown. She served 13 years on the Board. She lost her seat in November 2015 to Davis.
Winn has devoted countless hours to the District. She has attended hundreds of school events, including sporting events of every kind.
Winn’s current volunteer capacity with the District is working with art teachers to display student art in the District office so the community can see it. She pays for all supplies out of her own pocket.
“I write a personal thank you note when I return the art,” Winn said. “I include a candy bar, for Pete’s sake, that I pick up at See’s candy that says ‘awesome’ on it. I give it back to the teacher and say, ‘Thank you for sharing the student art.’ And they’re going to investigate me.”
Winn is also a founding director of the Los Angeles County Air Show, which awards scholarships to local high school students each year, and the Aerospace Valley Robotics Tournament.
Winn volunteered to hand out diplomas to Antelope Valley High School graduates this June, with former trustee Michael Dutton, when no active Board member signed up. AV High is in Davis’ trustee area.
McGrady covered Knight High School’s graduation after Ruffin canceled, and Rush covered Quartz Hill High School so McGrady could go to Knight High.
Since January 2016, Winn has served on the 50th District Agricultural Association, one of the three boards involved with the Antelope Valley Fair. She was appointed by former Gov. Jerry Brown.