LANCASTER — There is no new news in regard to a personnel investigation authorized by Antelope Valley Union High School District Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin and Clerk Amanda Parrell voted in closed session at the Sept. 12 meeting.
Trustees Jill McGrady and John Rush voted no.
The Board canceled its Sept. 26 meeting without explanation. It met for the first time in a month Thursday night. Ruffin did not attend.
Davis, unprompted, said he received several questions regarding an ongoing investigation.
“Since this is an active investigation and a closed session item, we cannot comment on the specifics of the investigation,” Davis said. “However, any questions or concerns can be directed to Mrs. McGrady, seeing that she has firsthand knowledge of the events leading up to the investigation.”
Because it was a closed session item regarding personnel, when the Board’s Sept. 12 action was announced afterward, there were no names attached to it. The next day, Sept. 13, former AV Union High School District trustee and longtime volunteer Donita Winn received notice that approval for her to act as a volunteer with the District was suspended, pending a personnel investigation to be conducted by an independent, outside investigator.
“As such, you are 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,” the notice said.
Winn, a private citizen, said she did not know why she was being investigated. She still doesn’t know. She hasn’t been contacted or interviewed in regard to the investigation.
Davis, Ruffin and Parrell’s action appeared to be in retaliation against Winn’s support of the unsuccessful recall effort launched against them.
A week before the Sept. 12 meeting Winn joined recall supporters, including McGrady, outside Littlerock High School during a back-to-school night. A woman who identified herself as a friend of Ruffin verbally accosted them, according to Winn and others who were there. The woman criticized the group and took pictures and video of them.
“Are they trying to stifle my freedom of speech?” Winn said after she received the notification.
Winn addressed the Board on Thursday night.
“I want to make just one thing clear,” Winn said. “In all my 30 years of volunteering, I’ve never volunteered for a Board of Trustees. I do not volunteer for you. I volunteer for the teachers, for the students, for the classified staff, administrators, and the people in the Antelope Valley.”
Winn has worked on many different committees in almost every school District in the Valley. She estimated that she has raised close to a half-billion dollars for the Valley’s children.
“I’ve tried anyway to help improve the schools, to help improve students’ lives, and I feel like I’ve done that,” Winn said. “And I don’t work for a Board of trustees. I do this out of my own pocket, on my own hours, thousands of hours, thousands of dollars, and I do it because I want to make a difference in this community.”
McGrady asked Davis about his comments.
“Mr. Davis, I’m curious, because it sounded like you gave me permission to talk about the investigation; is that correct?” McGrady asked.
Davis’ response was inaudible.
“Even if you give me permission, I’m not allowed to disclose confidential information that came to me through closed session, even though you called my name out,” McGrady said. “Would you be willing to tell them why you called me out on that; why you mentioned my name in concern with the investigation?”
“Please hold this to what we,” Davis began, “I believe you have firsthand knowledge of the events that occurred leading up to this investigation, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
McGrady countered she had questions about the investigation.
Davis asked Superintendent David Vierra to set a time with McGrady and possibly Jay Fernow, an attorney with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, to discuss the issues.
“I’m very concerned about going back and forth between closed session and open session, so Mrs. McGrady, would you make time available to meet with Dr. Vierra?” Davis said.
“I would love to do that sir, but you’re the one who brought it up,” McGrady said. “You’re the one that asked the audience to talk to me about the investigation. I don’t know about the investigation. My question for you is, what is the status of it? It hadn’t been mentioned here tonight.”
McGrady asked Davis who else was under investigation.
“I don’t know; help me out here, Jay,” Davis said.
Fernow said they should not discuss personnel matters and active investigations.
“I guess I feel a little more on the spot because I was mentioned that anyone who had a question to talk to me, but I don’t know anything about it,” McGrady said. “Why would you throw my name as though I’m in charge of it? I am not.”
Davis said he wasn’t at the event that led up to the investigation and that McGrady was there, although he did not identify the event.
“I feel fairly strongly about what we’re doing to Donita Winn,” McGrady said. “She has been a volunteer for our schools in the Valley for over 30 years. … We came out and banned her from being a volunteer until this investigation is finished.
“Nobody knows about the investigation. We don’t know if it’s going on, if it’s started. She doesn’t even know why she’s being investigated. I personally believe that’s wrong. … She at least needs to be told why she’s being investigated.”