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Washoe County school board president denies that racism played any role in Davis situation

Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley

Washoe County School Board President Katy Simon Holland on Thursday rebutted the notion that racism has anything to do with the situation regarding Superintendent Traci Davis, who is accused of leaking confidential information.

The school district announced last week that Davis, superintendent since 2014, was taking a leave of absence. Since then, a public feud has unfolded: District officials allege that Davis exhibited “recklessly negligent supervision” and “gross misconduct” that led to the leaking of confidential information. Davis, meanwhile, has said race is playing a role in the allegations levied against her.

“This is a clear indication of racial issues in the school district,” she told the Reno Gazette-Journal on Wednesday.

Washoe County School Board President Katy Simon Holland

Simon Holland denied any such assertion during an interview Thursday afternoon.

‘That’s an absurd accusation,” she said. “Anyone who exhibited the conduct that has gotten us here by Ms. Davis — anyone who exhibited that conduct — would be treated in the same way.”

The board president said the evidence indicating that Davis leaked confidential information came to light on May 29. On that day, the district received discovery for a workplace harassment-related lawsuit pending in federal court. Simon Holland said the discovery contained more than 200 pages of documentation showing that confidential information, including documents, reports and verbal communications, had been leaked.

Simon Holland said the board and district “didn’t go looking for this,” referring to the evidence.

But its existence, she said, illustrates negligence on behalf of Davis, who had been instructed to ensure the confidential information wasn’t leaked or accessible by other employees.

“She was grossly negligent in allowing that to happen,” Simon Holland said. “If she knew, it was deliberate and, if she didn’t know, she should have known.”

Davis’ attorney, William Peterson, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis answers questions during an interview on March 14, 2019. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

Peterson had emailed the district’s chief general counsel, Neil Rombardo, on Wednesday to announce that Davis would be returning to work Thursday. District officials reacted by promptly closing three administrative buildings until Monday.

Simon Holland said she hadn’t received any reports that Davis had shown up for work.

The parties could come face-to-face Monday when the school board holds a special meeting to consider Davis’ employment. Davis or her attorney will be allowed 20 minutes of testimony at the meeting, Simon Holland said.

Ultimately, the board could vote to retain Davis, retain her with discipline, terminate her not for cause or terminate her for cause.

Simon Holland, a board member since January 2017, acknowledged that she and Davis had a “strained relationship” from day one. The board president said she had differed with Davis on a variety of issues, including her leadership style.

“I would say that our working relationship was adequate,” she said. “That’s about as far as I can go.”Simon Holland said the board has not had any meetings or taken any votes about the Davis matter. All of that will occur during the public special meeting Monday.

“I’m tremendously disappointed and sad for the district that our almost 8,000 employees are having to go through this,” she said. “It’s devastating.”


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