PALMDALE — The Democratic Club of the High Desert invited Antelope Valley Union High School District governing Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin, trustee Jill McGrady, and teachers to their monthly meeting on Wednesday for a discussion of the proposed recall effort against Davis, Ruffin, and Board Clerk Amanda Parrell.
“Part of the Democratic Party, we want to educate voters on issues,” Democratic Club President Johnathon Ervin said, adding the proposed recall of Davis, Ruffin and Parrell is a hot-button issue in the community.
Recall proponents served Davis, Ruffin and Parrell with a notice of intent to recall on April 11. However, Los Angeles County election officials have not yet approved the notice’s language for the recall to proceed.
In order to comply with Brown Act rules, Ervin asked Davis or Ruffin to leave the room while McGrady and Lancaster High School teacher Sue Strom discussed the proposed recall effort. Davis complied, and waited in the next room.
“They are self-serving. They are rude. … They have spent money unnecessarily, giving their friends contracts that we don’t need,” Strom said. They’re wasting money that we could be using for our students and they don’t have students’ best interests at heart.”
Ruffin and Parrell were sworn in on Dec. 12, along with trustee John Rush. At the Jan. 24 Board meeting, Davis, Ruffin and Parrell approved a $75,000 consulting contract with Full Circle Consulting Systems Inc., whose leadership includes Kathleen Van Antwerp, a Davis associate.
“We already have those kinds of programs in place. It’s a duplication of service,” McGrady said.
Full Circle submitted a $15,000 invoice recently. McGrady said based on feedback from district employees Full Circle completed about 15 hours of work.
“That’s a $1,000 an hour that’s not going for kids. It’s not going for programs that will really help our children,” said McGrady, who is not directly involved with the recall but was there to answer questions.
Davis, Ruffin, and Parrell also approved an illegal contract with northern California-based D’Vacor Entertainment Group to create personal websites for them using taxpayer dollars. D’Vacor Entertainment Group did campaign materials for Ruffin, according to graphic samples posted on their website that have since been removed.
“Their first contract was open-ended,” McGrady said. “Once again, we don’t do that with our own checkbooks. How can we possibly do that with the checkbook for a high school?”
The estimated cost was $5,000 per website, plus $1,000 a month for maintenance. The contract also included paying Rose Lyles, D’Vacor’s managing partner and senior graphic designer, travel expenses to and from the Antelope Valley. Lyles withdrew the contract with the District on April 11, saying the District was not a good fit for her company.
McGrady added the District also does not need the open-ended contract with Los Angeles-based law firm Harris & Associates, whose princpal lawyer, John W. Harris, charges $400 an hour.
The District has an existing contract with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, one of the state’s leading educational law firms, and in-house general counsel Bridget Cook. Cook is one of 22 attorneys nationwide to serve on the National School Board Association’s Council of School Attorneys.
Then there was the $48,500 contract with K12 Secure, a company started in December by a former co-worker of Davis.
“I think it’s unconscionable, It’s just not right,” McGrady said in recounting the Board majority’s actions.
McGrady, who is in her eighth year on the school Board, also said Davis disrepects student trustee Noah Sveiven.
After answering some questions, McGrady left the room so Ruffin and Davis could address the audience.
Ruffin spoke first.
“Before this election I met Rose one time,” Ruffin said, adding that Lyles was one of several people to give her advice on her campaign.
“I never gave her one red cent,” said Ruffin, who shouted most of the time she spoke.
Ruffin added the person who created her literature was based in Los Angeles.
“Did I know her? Did I know of her association, Absolutely. Is there any conflict of interest, no money’s ever been exchanged, any of that,” Ruffin said, without explaining why the D’Vacor contract was brought before the Board.
Ruffin shifted to suspension and expulsion rates. According to Ruffin, out of 4,113 black students in the District more than 20% were suspended or expelled one time last year.
“You don’t hear them talk about that,” Ruffin said
In regards to travel, Ruffin said before they joined the Board, money was set aside for them to attend the California School Boards Association conference.
“We didn’t have no decision on that,” Ruffin said, shouting.
However, Ruffin, Davis, and Parrell did approve an estimated $10,000 for them to attend the National School Boards Association in Philadelphia last month.
According to Ruffin, it was at the California School Boards Associatinon conference where Board members were encouraged to “separate yourself.”
“Get a phone, get technology. And guess what, that’s common across the United States of America,” Ruffin said. “We didn’t come through saying take away from kids, those had already allocated.”
However, there is no record to show the previous Board, which included Davis, allocated money for new iPhones, iPads, and Microsoft Surface Pro tablets for them.
Trustees McGrady and Rush did not request and did not receive the devices.
Ruffin said these things became an issue because they are “starting to dig deep.”
“I’m here to tell you I have nothing, nothing to lose in this process,” Ruffin said.
Davis called the proposed recall effort a smoke screen.
“They want you to look over here, about what Dr. Ruffin is saying, and what we’re finding out, that you guys have no clue about what we’re looking at. They’re doing things over here, and believe me, they’ve been doing it for 18 years. I’m not talking about the teachers, you guys are great. I’m talking the guys up here that sat in the ivory towers.” Davis said.
Davis said the Board voted last Thursday to open an investigation of suspensions.
“They’re not reporting in-school suspensions, and that’s one of the issues teachers have right now,” Davis said.
Davis said the investigation has to do with guidance that comes down from the District office.
“We’re not looking at teachers. We’re looking at the District people, and the kind of programs and the kind of things they’re offering our teachers to do a better job,” Davis said.
Davis added, “I see a lot of eyes roll. Well, you know a lot of these eyes rolling are the people that’s been on the gravy train for 18 years … That’s what I see, and that’s why I know. I know many great teachers and coaches that have been overlooked for promotions.”
The District administration, Davis said, is filled with family members.
“This is a smokescreen whether you believe it or not. We will, and like I say, the truth will set a lot of people free … This isn’t about teachers. We’re going to find out what the people in the ivory towers have been up to,” Davis said.
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