UPDATE: The Washoe County School District (WCSD) says they paid thousands of dollars to a PR agency for help with external communications during the controversy with former Superintendent Traci Davis.

They said beginning on June 16, WCSD hired public relations firm KPS3 on a short-term basis. 

WCSD says the total cost has been $8,312.50.

They said it was for 47.5 hours of work, at the cost of $175 per hour. 


Original Story: On Monday, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to terminate Traci Davis' contract, effective immediately, with cause. Trustee Jacqueline Calvert was the lone vote against termination with cause.

The Trustees then unanimously voted to install Deputy Superintendent Dr. Kristen McNeill as interim superintendent. 

WCSD says evidence was provided to the District on May 29, 2019, as a result of the discovery period of another case in which an ex-employee was suing the District. Davis says she will sue the district over the termination.

Pursuant to her employment agreement, the WCSD says the only compensation Davis will be receiving because of the termination for cause will be earned benefits that have been accrued, such as unused vacation and sick time, plus a $15,000 deferred compensation contribution, all of which totals $122,412.79. Her employment agreement also specifies that in the event of a dispute about her termination, the matter is resolved in District Court. The say no severance or settlement will be paid unless so ordered by a Court.

If Davis were fired without cause, her severance pay would be $535,631.39. Board President Katy Simon Holland says the board discussed the possibility of terminating her without cause to avoid a lawsuit, and trustee Angie Taylor brought up the idea during the meeting to put the termination behind the school district as quickly as possible.

Simon Holland says she decided to vote for termination with cause after hearing the from the public the desire to recognize Davis's wrong-doing.

"If there was substantial evidence, we should not be paying that severance when there was, in fact, in many people's opinion, cause for termination," Simon Holland says. "So that was the board's decision today."

If Davis does sue the district, it's possible the district would discuss a settlement with Davis.

McNeill, who was named acting superintendent June 18 when Davis took a leave of absence, has 26 years of experience in WCSD. She's a former teacher, principal, and chief of staff for the district. She says she'll start meeting with staff tomorrow to get up to speed, and start helping out with immediate needs.

"We have three new schools opening up, teachers to hire, we have schedules to fill," McNeill says. "We've got aides and assistants to hire, so it's pretty much taking a check to make sure I am there in support of them."

McNeill says she has not decided if she will apply for the full-time WCSD superintendent position.

The WCSD says there will be further discussion at the July 23 Board of Trustees meeting to determine the process for hiring the next Superintendent. Simon Holland says personally, she would like a nationwide search.

"I think it's important not only for the community but it's also important for the candidate, because then the candidate knows they were the best qualified person and they have the full confidence of the community and the board."

A special meeting was previously scheduled to discuss alleged misconduct by Superintendent Traci Davis.

Davis, who became the first African American named district superintendent in 2015, denied any wrongdoing and said she was the victim of a "witch hunt."

Simon Holland said that while it "grieves" her, she concluded the evidence was compelling that Davis acted dishonestly and either provided or allowed or failed to prevent distribution of confidential information in violation of district policy.

Both sides say they expect the dispute to end up in court.

Davis made a statement at the beginning of the meeting and public comment lasted about two hours. 

During discussion, Trustee Dr. Angie Taylor listed five things the school district needs to do to move forward. 

She said the WCSD needs to make the transition period short. She also wants the school district to be transparent as possible within the law, such as the open meeting law. 

She says she wants the WCSD to come up with an amicable settlement to end the issue now, otherwise those issues will linger. She also said if they don’t end a possible pending lawsuit now, the board will still have to deal with a settlement, no matter what the future judgment might be.

Lastly, she wants a stable situation the county’s students.  

After the vote, Trustees discussed who should replace Davis as superintendent. Acting Superintendent Kristen McNeill gave emotional testimony, citing several actions she has taken since her employment with the district. She too stressed for district transparency. Trustees then voted unanimously to make her interim superintendent.

During the subsequent press conference, they announced that the district will hold leadership team meetings ahead of the start of the traditional school year.

On June 13, WCSD says the Board President notified Davis that a special meeting would happen regarding her status with WCSD.
 
On June 17, Traci Davis took her leave of absence. WCSD at the time, said she took it for personal reasons.
 
WCSD says it was on June 21 that the Board gave an amended notice to Davis that they would consider her character, alleged misconduct and professional competence.

WCSD says the item was placed for the special meeting after evidence was brought forward by multiple parties. 

“I have reviewed the substantial evidence received by the School District, and after Ms. Davis’ lack of timely response, I feel the Board needs to discuss her communication to the District and this evidence, in an open public meeting and possibly take action.” said Katy Simon Holland, President of WCSD Board of Trustees.

She released this statement below as well: 

Our legal counsel hoped that discussions with Ms. Davis’ legal counsel would lead to a quick and reasonable outcome with Ms. Davis for the benefit of the District. I wanted to be respectful of her privacy and give her a few days to decide what she wanted to do in light of the substantial evidence, which the District had been given. However, during that personal leave of absence when the District was expecting a response, she and her legal counsel failed to comply with the most basic requests for a timely response, and it became clear that the District was possibly being harmed by their actions. At no time did the Board take any action or vote, in private or otherwise, regarding her employment.
These were reasons why I didn’t share specifics and details of our situation at the time. The District’s counsel discussed the issue with them hoping for resolution that would not harm the District. District counsel has provided information to me which I feel shows a reasonable conclusion that at minimum was recklessly negligent supervision and gross misconduct on her part.

WCSD says the special meeting posted on the District's website includes a meeting packet with Davis' contract, the discovery provided in a federal case the District was named in, the June 13 notice to Davis and the June 21 amended notice.

WCSD says by law, Davis' contract is public and must be discussed publicly, unlike other District employees.

They said they will consider naming McNeill as Interim Superintendent at the July 1 special meeting. They said it will begin at 8 a.m. at the District headquarters.

They said it will be streamed live here.

They said Davis stated publicly June 24 that she did not tell WCSD that she was requested a leave of absence for personal reasons after being served with the notice from June 13.
 
WCSD alleges that Davis' law firm that is representing her, Snell & Wilmer, leaked critical information about the investigation.

WCSD said they received additional information from "another party" that Davis' lawyer, William Peterson, and his firm represented three different employees adverse to Davis in this workplace investigation. 

They said an ex-client believes that Snell & Wilmer used the client's information to benefit Traci Davis and spread misleading information about the situation.
 
On June 26, Acting Superintendent Kristen McNeill released a letter to WCSD employees that the Central Administration Offices would close until July 1, because they allegedly received a message that Traci Davis intended to breach her leave of absence and return to work.
 
WCSD says they believed she and her lawyer intended to create a disruptive confrontation that Thursday, June 27.
 
On Thursday, the lawyer representing Davis, William E. Peterson, made public a 65-page letter addressed to WCSD.

Peterson released this statement below:

To Board of Trustees of Washoe County School District:

Attached is the response of Traci Davis to Notice of Special Meeting of Washoe County School District to Consider Character, Alleged Misconduct and or Professional Competence at the public hearing for July 1, 2019. This is a public record that we consent may be provided or circulated to anyone or posted on your website for the meeting If you prefer or desire. We would like this response inserted into the record for the Hearing on Monday, July 1, 2019.

The letter denies that Davis leaked confidential information, questions the evidence presented against her and alleges that WCSD deliberately deceived her.  The letter also alleges that WCSD intended to fire Superintendent Davis without giving her severance pay or without a cause, and states she is willing to take the case to the Second Judicial District Court.

You can read the full letter here.


Original Story: The Washoe County School District says two top officials are no longer employed with the district. Earlier, Superintendent Traci Davis announced she is taking a leave of absence due to "personal reasons." 

Davis was appointed to interim superintendent in 2014 after serving as deputy superintendent for two years in Washoe County. The board of trustees approved her as the permanent superintendent in 2015, and she signed a two-year extension in 2018.

"We learned about it yesterday and had an email requesting for personal reasons," Board President Katy Simon Holland says. "The board does not have to act on [the leave of absence notice.] Ms. Davis does have accrued leave, and she has an extensive amount of leave, so she is allowed to take that leave."

Prior to joining the Washoe County School District, Superintendent Davis worked for 16 years in the Clark County School District in southern Nevada.

As of right now, Davis will be paid out for her earned 10-12 weeks time off. It's unclear what happens if she runs out of accrued time.

Deputy Superintendent Kristen McNeill is the acting superintendent while Davis is on leave. She has 26 years of experience in the district, and is a former teacher, principal and district chief of chief.

"As deputy she has a breadth of responsibility now that encompasses almost all of what she'll have to do in the new role as well," Simon Holland says.

She says the board recently approved a policy for a situation like this one, where there's a leave of absence with little or no warning.

"The board adopted a policy that allows for succession planning," Simon Holland says. "And particularly in the event of an emergency, where we need to have continuity of operations, so there was no board action required for the deputy superintendent to take over the acting superintendent role."

It's unclear when Davis will return to her duties as WCSD superintendent.

The WCSD released this statement:

The Washoe County School District accepted the request by Superintendent of Schools, Traci Davis, for a Leave of Absence due to personal reasons. Per Board policy 9082, Dr. Kristen McNeill, Deputy Superintendent, is acting Superintendent. The leave is of indefinite length. Ms. Davis and School Board President, Katy Simon Holland will remain in contact to determine next steps. Neither Ms. Davis nor the school district has further information about the reasons for the Leave of Absence. 

Dr. McNeill is a veteran educator and leader in education management. She has been with the Washoe County School District for 26 years, and has served in a variety of roles as teacher, principal, Chief of Staff, and most recently as Deputy Superintendent. 

“Kristen has always been a champion for quality, accountability and transparency,” said Board President Katy Simon Holland. “The staff and students of the Washoe County School District are in good hands."

Chief Student Services Officer Dr. Byron Green and Chief of Staff David Lasic are no longer employed with the WCSD.