Union asks: Justice for Jack?

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A controversial issue that sparked community outcry is coming to a crossroads more than a year after Jack Daley – Gilroy High School’s popular former athletic director and district staff member of 20 years – was “reassigned” following an April 7, 2011 incident when first-year GHS track coach Alvin Harrison was arrested for a DUI on Daley’s watch.

After the car wreck in Southern California where GHS was attending a track meet, it was discovered that Harris – a two-time Olympic gold medalist sprinter whose second medal was stripped after he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs – did not have a valid driver’s license. A school district investigation revealed Daley rented the vehicle for Harrison to use, although Daley reiterated to the Dispatch that he had no knowledge of Harrison’s invalid license.

A closed-door hearing involving Daley, Superintendent Debbie Flores, former Gilroy Teachers Association President Michelle Nelson, a joint arbitrator, attorneys and witnesses is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in the Gilroy Unified School District board room, located at 7810 Arroyo Circle. Athletic directors Julie Berggren and Darren Yafai from GHS and Christopher High School will also be present, according to Nelson. Flores says the Gilroy Unified School District trustees will not be in attendance.

Nelson, then GTA president who filed a contract violation grievance in May 2011 on Daley’s behalf, is clear on the goal of the hearing: “… ultimately, I think vindication.”

Superintendent Flores says the arbitration will be closed to the public, although Nelson is surprised by this.

She contests “that decision properly belongs to the arbitrator, not the superintendent,” according to the American Arbitration Association.

If the arbitrator rules at the beginning of the proceedings that the hearing is to be closed, “then of course GTA will honor that decision,” said Nelson.

Flores contends the meeting is not subject to public notice. She says GUSD will not agree to an open-door hearing, “as this is a personnel matter and also touches on other open litigation matters the district is involved in.”

Whether Monday’s meeting results in Daley’s reinstatement, back pay or no changes at all, details on possible outcomes are sparse.

“We’re going to be exploring the alternative remedies with our attorney,” said Nelson, who plans to meet Sunday with Daley and GTA attorney Jacob Rukeyser.

The district anticipates Daley is “seeking reinstatement to his former athletic director position,” Flores wrote, “and that he will be contending that the district’s alleged breach of the GTA (Gilroy Teachers Association) collective bargaining agreement entitles him to such a remedy.”

Daley, who currently teaches history full-time at Christopher High School, has not responded to requests for comment and Board President Tom Bundros deferred Daley-related questions to Flores.

COACH’S DUI YIELDS

CONSEQUENCES FOR DALEY

Daley’s reassignment came at the conclusion of GUSD’s investigation into the April 7, 2011 injury DUI accident.

Then GHS track coach Alvin Harrison was driving a rented van on a field trip to a track meet in Southern California when he hit another vehicle from behind on state Highway 73, causing it to overturn and sending two people to the hospital. No GHS students were in the van during the accident, which occurred at 8:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, 2011.

Harrison was terminated immediately.

The board’s decision to oust Daley from his post of 11 years and ban him from coaching in the future, however, hit a major nerve in Gilroy and beyond – prompting backlash from employees in other school districts, to GHS alumni, to sports photographers, to fuming parents.

Residents packed board meetings – literally spilling out of the doorway – waved signs from street curbs at passing cars, donned “Bring Back Jack T-shirts” and flooded the Dispatch with letters of support for Daley: An “honest man of integrity” who once was named the Central Coast Section’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2007.

“Finding someone as great as Jack Daley is not something that GUSD should take lightly,” wrote former Athletic Director Art Hunsdorfer with Salinas Union High School District, in a letter to the Gilroy Dispatch. “I know of no other athletic director in our league or in our area that dedicates more time to his/her job than Jack.”

Former student Christine Cuthbert, who attended GHS from 1995 to 1999 when Daley was the activities director, also wrote to the Dispatch, saying “the idea of (Daley) leaving his position at GHS turned my stomach.”

She characterized Daley as “an inspiration at GHS,” and one of the few teachers  “who truly made a difference in my life.”

Others who spoke publicly during school board meetings expressed lost faith in the school board, condemning trustees’ decision as one with “no logic” and smelling “rotten.”

“Do the right thing and give Jack his job back. With an apology,” demanded Steve Brinkman, former assistant superintendent of administrative services for GUSD.

Preventing Daley from coaching in the future was like pouring lemon juice on an open wound, others said.

“For goodness sakes; by not allowing him to coach you have implied he is a danger to our youth,” implored Jan Alonso, ASB school accountant at GHS. “Your behavior humiliates him.”

Neither GUSD nor Joseph Cisneros, Daley’s attorney at the time, would release details of the investigation to the Dispatch.

Trustees have since remained tight-lipped about the issue amid a firestorm of public disapproval, save for one official statement issued in March 2012.

The GTA, in the meantime, has been fighting for the “unequivocally violated” contractual rights of Daley, filing a grievance on his behalf in May 2011 and later suing the district in January 2012 for “refusing” to address the grievance through joint arbitration. The process hit a milestone March 15, when Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce ruled that GUSD is legally compelled to enter into arbitration with the GTA.

This means both parties will present their respective legal positions Monday to San Francisco-based arbitrator Robert Hirsch, “who will then decide whether or not Mr. Daley’s allegations are sustainable,” Flores explained.

The cost of settling the grievance through arbitration comes from the district’s general fund according to Dale Morejon, California Teachers Association chapter services consultant.

The GTA’s argument boils down to two elements.

Firstly, the district cannot transfer or reassign an employee as a form of discipline, according to article 17.1 of the collective bargaining agreement between the district and the GTA.

An official GUSD document dated May 11, 2011 notifying Daley that he is relieved of his athletic director duties, however, is titled “Re: Notice of Reassignment.”

Throughout the entire process, Superintendent Flores has maintained the “the position of an athletic director is not a regular teaching position.”

Rather, the athletic director is considered an extra duty job which “may be terminated at any time” and is therefore not subject to the rules of reassignment, Flores explained back in March.

GTA argues that when Daley was an athletic director, he was being paid as a full-time employee who received an extra duty stipend on top of his regular, annual salary.

“If the stipend were sufficient to perform the duties of the athletic director, then the district would not have a full-time position for it,” Nelson pointed out.

Nelson hopes Monday’s outcome will ultimately set a precedence.

“This shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” she said. “This (contract) language has been place as long as I can remember. This is the first time the district has used reassignment as a form of discipline.”

Flores reiterates the district’s legal position, which holds that GUSD “did not violate the GTA collective bargaining agreement by assigning Mr. Daley’s athletic director duties to a new person.”

• April 7, 2011: First-year Gilroy High School track coach Alvin Harris is terminated after hitting another vehicle from behind on state Highway 73, causing it to overturn and sending two people to the hospital while wrecking a rental van on a school athletic field trip. No GHS students were in the van.
• April 21, 2011: Injured driver Eriberto Garcia files property damage and personal injury claim against district.
• May 6, 2011: Alvin Harrison’s twin brother, Calvin Harrison, files property damage and personal injury claim against district.
• May 11, 2011: Then GHS Athletic Director Jack Daley receives a “Notice of Reassignment” signed by GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores.
• May 2011: The Gilroy Teachers Association files a grievance against the district on behalf of Daley. Subsequent school board meetings see large turnouts and public protests consisting of students, parents, community members, local church members, business owners and organizations advocating on Daley’s behalf.
• June 2011: District promotes nine-year employee Julie Berggren to Daley’s former athletic director position.
• January 2012: GTA sues the district for “refusing” to address the Daley grievance through joint arbitration.
• March 15: Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce grants an order requiring GUSD to go to arbitration with GTA.
• Sept. 17: Private arbitration hearing addressing the grievance will take place at district offices in Gilroy. Daley, GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores, former Gilroy Teachers Association President Michelle Nelson, a joint arbitrator, attorneys and witnesses will be present.
• On behalf of Calvin Harrison, the twin brother of Alvin Harrison, who was injured as a passenger while riding in the school-rented van during a GUSD athletic field trip.
• On behalf of injured driver Eriberto Garcia. According to the claim, Garcia lost control of his vehicle, hit the concrete median and flipped over after being rear-ended by Alvin.
• No financial details regarding the claims have been released by GUSD or the attorneys.
No comment: The district refuses to comment on the Harrison litigation as “that is an ongoing matter,” according to Flores. Multiple calls placed by the Dispatch over a period of several months to the attorneys of Harrison and Garcia regarding the status of the claims have gone unanswered.
“Last spring, a Gilroy High School Athletic Coach was involved in an automobile accident that injured three adults and resulted in considerable property damage, while driving intoxicated and with a suspended drivers’ license. Even though no one but that coach is to blame for his inexplicably reckless actions, we took the time to engage in self-reflection and a careful examination of the District’s operations relating to student athletic activities, from hiring protocols to transportation procedures. To maximize the District’s ability to move away from old practices and implement new procedures that will enhance safety, we made a staff change in one of the key positions that impact student athletics. Instead of supporting the District’s efforts, GTA filed a grievance, demanded arbitration and initiated litigation. We agree that resources should not have been wasted challenging the District’s efforts to find ways to enhance student safety.”

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