AVUHSD Board of Trustees: Recall and Why


Picture by Photo provided by https://www.avboardrecall.com/

By Melissa Canales, News Editor

You can see it in the distressed looks on your counselors’ faces when you walk in to see them. You can feel the discreet outrage of faculty members, professors, and administrators alike; and, recently, you saw it in the widespread absence of teachers on Thursday, April 18th. Though the news of the occurrences in the AV Union School District is not a prevalent topic within the social circles of high school students, the recent happenings have troubled school employees on every campus within the district and every member of the community must be aware of it.


On November 3, 2018, three new Board of Trustees members were voted on for the new term: Victoria Ruffin, Amanda Parrell, and John Rush, each serving as Vice President, Clerk, and Board Member, respectively. The former two, however, are the ones of particular interest because of their connection with current Board Trustee President, Robert Davis. Now, with a majority of three to five, Davis, Ruffin, and Parrell have been able to set in motion their own plans for the school district,ignoring the needs and wants of the students, school staff, and community.


The most notorious act of these board members was also their latest: the controversial approval of an open-ended contract with John W. Harris, the principal of law firm Harris and Associates, and Herbert Hayden, senior associate of the same firm. The contract with the firm was signed by Davis on February first; although, the deal was done without authorization by the school district. On Thursday, April 18 the Board of Trustees held a “special meeting” at 10:30 in the morning to attain official approval of the contract, thus explaining the disappearance of multiple teachers who felt it was their responsibility to attend the conference. The odd timing of the meeting was far from coincidental. In an attempt to hinder any school members from coming, the meeting was set during school hours; yet, the number of teachers and school employees who took personal time off to make it to the conference was far from what the Board member trio had expected. During the two-hour conference, strong arguments were made against the approval of the contract with Harris and Associates. Despite the widespread backlash against the contract, Davis, Ruffin, and Parrell, unsurprisingly, voted in favor of the deal while the remaining trustees, Jill McGrady and John Rush, voted against it.


Harris, who has a personal relationship with Davis, and Hayden were hired to investigate the suspensions and expulsions of minorities in search of violations of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. However, the contract with the firm has become an uproar in the community for several reasons, primarily that the school district already has an existing contract with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, one of the leading educational law firms of the state. Attorneys from the latter firm have worked with the AVUHSD for years before Davis, Ruffin, and Parrell joined the board and have strived to prevent the exact forms of discrimination that are now being looked into. Additionally, the contracts provided the lawyers with a $400/hour and $375/hour salary for Harris and Hayden respectively. The payments to the men also take into account the commute they make from Los Angeles to the Antelope Valley and back. The money used to hire these men is unrestricted, and Harris has already billed the district for attending the board meetings of February 14 and 28 – though photo evidence shows him napping during the former conference – and participating in the board meetings of March 14 and April 11 through teleconference.


In addition to the vast expenses of the new attorneys, the trio of trustees also used their majority power to approve funding on a variety of projects.  D’Vacor En­ter­tainment Group, a Northern California entertainment company, was hired to design a personal website for each of the three trustees. The estimated cost for each website was $5,000 for developments and $1,000 for monthly maintenance. The contract, though, was deemed illegal for its use of public funds for personal needs and the entertainments group withdrew the contract on April 11. Furthermore, a $48,500 contract was signed with a newly formed security company to execute a security analysis; the head of said company is Bruce Frank, a former co-worker of Robert Davis. The three also managed to approve thousands of dollars in investments for district-issued electronics, including new iPhones, iPads, and Surface tablets for personal use. All the while, Davis, Parrell, and Ruffin have thwarted the attempts made at raising payments for teachers, classified employees, and unrepresented employees, including district administrators and site school principals, as well as their employees who handle personal data.


All the recently approved funding has negatively affected not just employees within AVUHSD, but also the students that attend its schools. The money for the recent spending sprees is being directly funneled out of funding for students, affecting a wide variety of programs ranging from athletics to arts.


Due to these recent happenings, the move for a recall or resignation of the three board trustees has gained popularity within the Antelope Valley. In the official Notice of Intention submitted to the Board of Trustees and filed April 15, voters of the AV cited the excessive expenditures and lack of communication on part of the President, Vice President, and Clerk as reasons for the petition for recall. The process, though, will be long. After the Notice of Intention was filed and published in a general newspaper, Davis, Ruffin, and Parrell had until Monday, April 22 to submit an answer. Now, the proponents face the slow process detailed thoroughly in the website linked below.


Information about the recent occurrences has been extracted from the multiple articles written and published by Valley Press writer Julie Drake. AV Board Recall has a compilation of such articles as well as the official Notice of Intention filed and the process of recall in detail. To see more, go to https://www.avboardrecall.com/