Petition calls for investigation into Canyons School District

Published: Monday, April 16 2012 10:14 p.m. MDT

SANDY — An online petition calling for an investigation into the management of Canyons School District is gaining signatures, pushed by a candidate for the Canyons Board of Education.

Chad Iverson started the petition Friday and by Monday it had collected more than 300 names. The petition urges the board to authorize a third-party investigation into allegations that Superintendent David Doty manages the district under an atmosphere of intimidation. It also calls for an anonymous survey to be conducted of district employees, allowing them to voice concerns without fear of retribution.

Iverson launched the petition after KSL-TV aired a report Thursday, in which former and current district employees accused Doty of inappropriately reprimanding them for insubordination and pressuring them into silence.

Sharon Okumura, a former elementary administrator, told KSL that prior to her retirement in 2011 she sent an email to Doty expressing concerns over a meeting he had called with her staff. In response, she claims she was called into Doty's office, where he berated her before giving her a formal letter of reprimand for gross insubordination. 

"I asked him if I could respond, and he said that no I couldn't, and I was to sit there and I was to listen," Okumura said.

Okumura was placed on paid administrative leave for the remainder of her employment and prohibited from being on district property or communicating with district employees.

KSL spoke with seven other district employees, mostly administrators, who said they received  letters of reprimand, were transferred or demoted without a pay decrease or were asked to write letters expressing their loyalty to the district and superintendent.

Iverson said he has no ill-will toward Doty, but the allegations warrant an honest and objective examination.

"I hope (the allegations) are not true," he said. "I'm not intimating that they are true. The allegations are serious and I would just hope the board considers the petition and looks into the allegations."

The KSL report also brought several hundred comments on ksl.com, the overwhelming majority echoing concerns about the district leadership:

"Canyons School Superintendent David Doty's salary comes from taxpayer dollars. We pay his salary. At the VERY least, he should be required to explain his side of this story," states one online comment.

There was also support for Doty:

"I am thinking that this is probably not true — especially given that the district probably has thousands of employees — so 8 of them, as the story reports, have been transferred. Big deal. When decisions to change are made some people may lack the ability to follow the new way. Eight out of thousands sounds like not a big deal," stated another online commenter.

Ross Rogers, president of the Canyons Education Association, said that he was aware of concerns among some Canyons employees but emphasized that the CEA is committed to working with the district to solve problems.

He said the allegations raised against Doty were personnel-related and did not fall under the scope of the CEA.

"The only way CEA will take action is if it involves teachers and going against our contracts," he said.

KSL and the Deseret News have repeatedly sought an interview with Doty. But he denied those requests.

Former Canyons and Jordan district board member Ellen Wallace said that Doty imposed a mandate barring communication between members of the board and district employees without Doty's knowledge and consent. She said she was shocked by the mandate.

Another board member, Kevin Cromar, was publicly censured at a Board of Education meeting in September after he spoke individually with district employees.

"I have not done anything except to seek to improve the school district. In doing that, I have sought input from educators and administrators," he said at the meeting. "I am deeply concerned about efforts of intimidation against both me and administrators at the schools."

Doty's secretary said Monday the superintendent was not available for comment. On Saturday he addressed the allegations on K-TALK radio's "Red Meat Radio" show.

"That's what I've been trying to do is raise the bar, get people to think a little bit differently, get people to work a little bit differently," he said. "And I think by and large that's been a very exciting and very rewarding endeavor, but you're not going to make everybody happy doing that. There's no question."

Repeated calls to Tracy Cowdell, president of the Canyons Board of Education, Monday were not returned. A statement attributed to Cowdell and released by the district Monday said, "The Canyons Board of Education supports Superintendent Doty and his work to lead the school district."

The Canyons Board of Education meets Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., at the Canyons Support Services Center, 9361 S. 300 E., Sandy.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com, jstagg@ksl.com

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