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Cal High basketball coach 'forced to resign,' implores school board to change policies

Original post made on Dec 3, 2012

In a tearful, impassioned speech to San Ramon Valley Unified's Board of Education on Nov. 13, California High School's Bob Donovan implored the school district to change its policies regarding parent complaints. Donovan, who coached men's varsity basketball for the past two years and from 1983-1990, was allegedly forced to resign amid unsubstantiated accusations.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, December 2, 2012, 8:39 PM

Comments (10)

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Posted by Dan Douglas
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:38 am

NOT surprising! The district is following a dirty statewide little secret about how they and other districts like Redwood City, get rid of "expensive" teachers. It does not matter how great this teacher's reputation or career was, these are witch hunts the "good old boys" at the district office are trained to do. Parent complaints in Redwood City are often from those whose parenting skills are questionable. The kids are usually liars working in unison with the dysfunctional parent to "get" a staff member. I know excellent teachers who had this happen. Most award winners and loved by the kids. But on the higher end of the $. In RCSD cases, kids were pathological liars with a history of going after stall through the years. Karma will get them. Teachers looking for employment need to steer clear of San Ramon and Redwood City.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Danville
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:29 am

If this is true as reported, how does the district avoid litigation. Over the years they not only have had an attorney representing the district but had attorney's on the Board of Education. This seems like labor violations. Where is the teachers union in this. This smells bad and there is too much quiet on the part we should be hearing from.

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Posted by B. Lynn Goodwin
a resident of Danville
on Dec 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

To Bob Donovan:

I am so sorry that you were a victim of this parent's actions, and even sorrier for the lessons that the son learned. I remember as a well-respected teacher and coach from the years when I taught at Cal High. Whatever you do next, I wish you all the best.

Take care,

B. Lynn Goodwin

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Posted by Ken
a resident of Danville
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I am not at all surprised!!
I worked for the San Ramon School District for eight years as a substitute teacher.
I substituted at Dianlo Vista Middle School and received a call from the Vice Principal saying that a student told him that I "grabbed him by the shirt, dragged him to the back of the class and threw him into a chair!" I told the Vice Principal that I've worked for the Distict long enough to know not to EVER put my hands on a student. From that day on I was "blacklisted" by Diablo Vista. Talking to several of the teachers there; it appears that this is the normal procedure in order for the Administration to avoid any conflicts with parents. The teachers told me "the students are running the school!" I was the TENTH substitute teacher to get "blacklisted" by Diablo Vista.
It is the policy of the San Ramon School District to avoid any potential litigation by just getting rid of the teacher or substitute teacher whether the allegations are true or not.
I feel very sorry for the Coach who had to endure this experience.
Shame on the School District for not supporting their employees

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Posted by Bayareamom
a resident of Danville
on Dec 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm


I'm really glad you printed your own personal history with the district regarding this issue. It helps me to realize that perhaps my own 'intuition' isn't too far off on this one.

Here is the statement I just posted at the 'San Ramon' side of the Express. For whatever it's worth, I'll print it here, as well.

I never knew this situation had occurred with Donovan until just a few days ago, so granted I have no real definitive background information regarding this incident (other than what I read in the Danville Express and then researched later on via the Internet).

But having said that, it seems to me that if what Coach Donovan states is true (and thus far, I've not seen anyone refute this), then he was FIRED for having brought Coach Phelps into an open gym to view, along with another coach, that day's practice.

So from a potential legal standpoint, not to mention a moral one, the decision of this District to fire Donovan because of Phelp's appearance in that gym, was entirely incorrect.

I mention legal standpoint because as I've stated above, the complaint against Phelps was dropped!

It is my understanding Phelps had ONE complaint lodged against him in 2010 - a complaint of which 'accused' Phelps of a lewd act SOME 40 YEARS PRIOR (back in 1966). The case went all the way to the Supreme Court; that charge was DROPPED because it failed to meet the statute of limitations time limits.

So in viewing this incident objectively as possible, I don't care what some folks may or may not feel about Donovan from a personal/emotional standpoint. The facts APPEAR to be that a complaint was lodged against Donovan (complaint number one). Said complaint was investigated; Donovan was fully exonerated AFTER a student admitted that Donovan never dropped the "F" bomb in front of the Coach's students. This said student allegedly stated (according to various reports), "The Coach doesn't use that kind of language."

Yet another complaint ensued (again via anonymous email). This complaint was also investigated and once again, Coach Donovan was exonerated.

Finally, another complaint ensued, at which time Donovan was called back into a meeting to discuss PRIOR complaints of which he had ALREADY BEEN EXONERATED.

Then the ball was dropped on him and he was FIRED by this District because, as Donovan states during his speech before the Board, because he had asked Coach Phelps to preview - IN AN OPEN GYM - the team's practice that day. Another coach was asked to view this practice, along with Phelps that day.

From a legal (not to mention constitutional) standpoint, by all accounts Coach Phelps, SHOULD BE presumed INNOCENT; he has NOT charged with a crime. Period.

Phelps' career was ruined with this ONE complaint and it has obviously followed him throughout his entire career. YET, he continues to coach, not only for various high school teams, but at the collegiate level as well.

If Phelps was your husband, son, or just a beloved friend, how would any of you feel if this had happened to them - and he was actually innocent? How would you feel if Phelps was YOUR friend or loved one and this one complaint was lodged against him because of a personal grudge by someone - perhaps a disgruntled parent? And that ONE complaint, perhaps lodged against him by a disgruntled parent and/or student, followed him throughout the entirety of his career?

I have seen this type of behavior on the part of parents repeatedly (and not just in this district). Look, we all love our kids and want the best for them. There are times when parents DO have legitimate reasons when filing complaints against various personnel in this district (I should know, I've been one of those parents).

I used to play in what they called Ponytail Softball, starting back when I was ten years old, all the way up to the age of eighteen years. My memories as to how our parents behaved, are absolutely atrocious. My own parents (one a former high school cheerleader, the other a typical high school jock), were in some ways every bit as controlling and complaining as the other parents. I witnessed for myself how vicariously parents can live through their kids during these sporting events. It's just absolutely unbelievable.

Our kids have GOT to grow up in this world and understand through compassion, empathy and understanding that NO ONE IS PERFECT; we all make our mistakes. We've taught our son, now nineteen years old, that he won't always have Mommy and Daddy to stand up for him; that he will have to learn to advocate for himself eventually. I have warned him that he will most likely, at some inopportune time, run up against a bully or two, a teacher he won't like, a landlord he won't care for, etc. That's life and he'll simply have to deal with it.

I may not have all the details regarding the above issue, but I can darn straight smell something's afoul, nonetheless.

Still, I'm just heartened to see all the support Coach Donovan had during that board meeting; wish I'd been there. I would have been another supporter.

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Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Dec 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Very well said, Bayareamom.

I also have no personal knowledge of either Coach Donovan, nor Coach Phelps for that matter. But the process (or lack of process) that seems to have been used to remove Coach Donovan from his coaching position at Cal HS is really starting to smell quite badly.

It is one thing to LISTEN TO anonymous complaints about a teacher or coach, and in fact there are even sound reasons to do so, since it is not unheard of for some form of retailiation to occur, affecting the complaining student (or the student child of the complaining adult). However, the dismissal (or other punishment meted out)of a teacher or coach should require a much more transparent process, including at least some form of rebuttal or defense opportunity, which may mean the right to "face" the accuser.

I'm a little surprised that the teacher's union hasn't stepped in, in some fashion, even though Coach Donovan didn't lose his teaching job - only a coaching position with (no doubt) a very modest additional stipend. But his reputation has also been besmirched, at least by some amount.

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Posted by Bayareamom
a resident of Danville
on Dec 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm

C. R. Mudgeon,

Very well stated yourself, as well.

I can only surmise that PERHAPS those few disgruntled parents had sufficient financial clout so as to thwart any attempts by the District to sully the attempt with Donovan's ouster. That's my humble opinion; certainly not stating this as fact.

I concur with with your above statement - with absolutely all of it.

It just saddens me a great deal when I see adults behave in this manner. How refreshing it would be to see this District simply do the right thing and quit kowtowing to some sort of legal precedent/issue.
But that takes courage and the willingness to the right thing, something I've not seen to much of with this district, I am very sad to say.

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Posted by Bayareamom
a resident of Danville
on Dec 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Sorry for typos in the above - in far too much of a hurry.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Danville
on Dec 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Given what has occurred here it only seem appropriate to let the school board know they are on notice to prevent this type of atrocious behavior. Come to a school board meeting and let them know this type of behavior is not what we live here for and expect from our school district. The school board morphs into a little gaggle of folks that think they have far more control than they actually do. Let's put their feet to the fire and let them know that they were elected to do a job and they can be tossed out just as easily.

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Posted by Bayareamom
a resident of Danville
on Dec 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I have spoken to the school board, on more than one occasion. I'm not entirely certain what the answer is, regarding this type behavior. The decision behind Donovan's ouster came from 'on high,' as they say. Clearly, the wagons were circled and the district's pocketbook was spared (at least with this one issue). That's usually always the bottom line, isn't it. MONEY. I've seen this behavior, in more ways than one, time and time again with this district.

It takes more than a little honor and a lot of courage to stand up for the right reason - to do the right thing. Sure, I can get up in front of the board again, but truthfully, I honestly don't think it would do one bit of good. Until some folks get wise (and not just our school board), and have the decency to do what is simply the right thing to do, things will continue on, status quo.

I wish Coach Donovan all the very best, I really do.

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